Photo: Bob Fu, Founder of ChinaAid, and Geng He, wife of Gao Zhisheng, testify before US Congress concerning prisoners of conscience (ChinaAid)
(Washington DC—April 21, 2023) Yesterday, Bob Fu and other witnesses testified concerning the whereabouts of missing lawyer Gao Zhisheng and other prisoners of conscience.
Where is Gao Zhisheng?
In the late morning of April 20, experts and witnesses gathered in the US House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs room. The Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations held a hearing entitled “China’s Political Prisoners: Where’s Gao Zhisheng?” Witnesses for the hearing included Geng He, the wife of the missing lawyer, and Sophie Luo, the wife of the recently sentenced Ding Jiaxi. Both women included powerful testimonies concerning their husbands and other prisoners of conscience.
Human rights experts join hearing
China human rights experts joined Geng and Luo, including Ambassador Andrew Bremberg the President of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation; Mrs. Yaqiu Wang Senior China Researcher for Human Rights Watch; and Thomas Kellogg the Executive Director of the Georgetown University Center for Asian Law.
Photo: Chen Guangcheng and witness gathered for a photo with Chairman Chris Smith (ChinaAid)
Gao Zhisheng, missing nearly six years
Gao Zhisheng is a renowned human rights lawyer in China, defending Falun Gong practitioners and underground house church Christians. For nearly six years, nobody has known his location or well-being. His resilience toward the Chinese government placed a target on his life. Since 2006, authorities have constantly detained and tortured Gao Zhisheng.
According to Geng He, lawyer Gao’s persecution intensified in 2007. “Gao Zhisheng published an open letter to the U.S. Congress, in which [he] pointed out that the Chinese Communist Party was a criminal gang in the guise of a state,” she testified. “From that day on,” Geng continued, “Gao Zhisheng was never free again until August 2017, when he was illegally kidnapped by the Chinese Communist Party, and his life and death were unknown for almost six years.”
She wrapped up her testimony by asking the US embassy in China to visit her husband and confirm his condition. However, she recognized her requests might not be possible. “It’s okay to have [Gao] give me a call and tell me he’s still alive. Just knowing he’s alive is enough.”
Ding Jiaxi, one of the founders of the New Citizen’s Movement, was recently sentenced to 12 years in prison for “subversion of state power.” Sophie Luo, Ding’s wife, delivered remarks highlighting Gao Zhisheng but also other prisoners of conscience. “The disappearance of the Chinese citizens or their voices indicates the complete disappearance of Chinese human rights and the rule of law. This is very dangerous not only to China but also to international society,” she testified.
Photo: Geng He (left) and Sophie Luo (ChinaAid)
Other highlighted cases
Fu testified concerning Gao Zhisheng’s case, illustrating that Gao’s situation is becoming a pattern for the CCP. He highlighted the cases of high-profile house church leaders, like Pastor Wang Yi and John Cao. On the other hand, he also mentioned Ju Dianhong and Liang Qin, two Christian women sentenced to 13 years and 10 years, respectively. The presiding judge convicted both women of “cult activity,” citing Pilgrim’s Progress and Streams in the Desert as “evil cult materials.”
US Leaders must meet with families
In his closing statement, Fu suggested that the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State meet publicly with the families of prisoners of conscience. “Xi Jinping is watching to see if human rights and prisoners of conscience matter to our foreign policy.”
Photo: Bob Fu testifying before the subcommittee (ChinaAid)
Calling for the release of Gao Zhisheng
As a result of the hearing, Chris Smith, the Republican Chairman of the presiding subcommittee, promised to introduce legislation to call for the release of Gao Zhisheng and Ding Jiaxi. “We have to redouble our efforts,” Smith said, “that goes for Congress, the White House, the State Department, and all others.”