|Representatives of the China 18 pose for a photo outside the Harry S. Truman Building on Sept. 17, 2014. (L-R: Thinley Kalsang, representing Lobsang Tsering, Ti-Anna Wang, daughter of Wang Bingzhang, “Rachel” Ruoyu Chang and her mother, Guiqing Deng, the daughter and wife, respectively, of Chang Boyang, “Esther” Huixin Zhang, daughter of Zhang Shaojie, “Grace” Ge Geng, daughter of Gao Zhisheng, Tencho Gyatso, representing Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, and China Aid founder and president, Bob Fu.) (Photo: China Aid)|
China Aid Association
(Washington—Sept. 23, 2014) Following last Wednesday’s press conference at the Parliamentary Triangle in Washington, D.C., which discussed the status of the “Free the China 18” campaign, a group of 40 organizations and individuals sent an open letter, below, to President Obama, asking him to make human rights a priority in upcoming meetings with the United Nations and with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The letter is just one addressed to President Obama that resulted from the press conference. In addition, the daughters of the China 18 members who attended the press conference and the subsequent hearing with the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights presented Under Secretary Sarah Sewall with a letter to Obama, in which they requested he meet with them personally before going to the APEC Summit in China so that he could hear what they have to say.
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
We write as an informal group of 40 organizations and individuals who are scholars, religious leaders, and human rights advocates to urge you to raise the plight of human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, and the overall situation for rule of law, human rights, and religious freedom in China during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meetings in New York and during meetings with President Xi during the forthcoming APEC Summit in China.
Gao Zhisheng is one of many Chinese citizens who utilize peaceful means to defend the rights of citizens guaranteed within China’s Constitution and international law. Unfortunately, while serving a three-year prison sentence, Gao was kept in solitary confinement and repeatedly tortured, which has resulted in physical and mental health problems. It is also our understanding that since Gao’s release from prison in August that he remains under house arrest, thus denying his freedom of movement and ability to freely communicate with family members and lawyers.
Furthermore, Gao’s wife and children, who immigrated to the United States in 2009, desperately desire to be reunited with their father and husband. Therefore, we ask that you urge the Chinese government to provide Gao with unconditional freedom, including allowing him to travel to the United States to visit family members and receive needed medical treatment.
Chinese human rights defenders, such as Gao Zhisheng, and other scholars, civil society, community, and faith leaders remain committed to advancing basic human rights and religious freedom in China despite the consequences of persecution, imprisonment, and in some cases death. These future leaders of China desperately need the international community, and specifically the United States, to support their efforts to defend basic human rights and freedoms.
To be recognized as an ally and partner by the international community, China must protect the rights and freedoms of its citizens as enshrined in the Chinese constitution and contained in the international treaties and conventions of which it is a signatory.
We therefore urge you to specifically raise Gao Zhisheng’s case and the plight of all Chinese citizens who face persecution and imprisonment for their political and religious views in your upcoming discussions during the United Nations General Assembly, and other appropriate venues, including with President Xi during the forthcoming APEC Summit in China.
ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOR VIETNAM
AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION
BOAT PEOPLE SOS
CENTER FOR FAITH AND HUMAN RIGHTS
CENTER FOR INQUIRY
CHRISTIAN SOLIDARITY WORLDWIDE – UNITED KINGDOM
CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY NATIONAL AFFAIRS OFFICE
COALITION FOR A FREE AND DEMOCRATIC VIETNAM
COMMITTEE FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN VIETNAM
HINDU AMERICAN FOUNDATION
HUMAN RIGHTS LAW FOUNDATION
HUMAN RIGHTS WITHOUT FRONTIERS INTERNATIONAL
INSTITUTE ON RELIGION AND DEMOCRACY
INSTITUTE ON RELIGION AND PUBLIC POLICY
INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX AUTONOMOUS CHURCH OF AMERICA
SOUTHERN BAPTIST ETHICS AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION
C. Naseer Ahmad
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
Rabbi Dr. Marc Gopin
Director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution
George Mason University
Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, Ph.D.
Human Rights/Democracy Advocate
Lauren B. Homer
Homer International Law
Law and Liberty Trust
Dr. Yang Jianli
Citizen Power for China / Initiatives for China
Amjad Mahmood Khan
National Director of Public Affairs
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice
Human Rights Law Foundation
The Mitchell Firm
Red Eagle Enterprises
Chairman, Mechanical Engineering
Catholic University of America
Uyghur American Association
Federation for a Democratic China
American Humanist Association
Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed,
Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances
Islamic Society of North America
William C. Walsh
Human Rights Attorney
Bisceglie and Walsh
cc: Secretary John Kerry, Secretary of State, State Department
Ambassador Susan Rice, National Security Advisor, White House