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Sunday, 20 May 2012

More to come?!

The news that the blind Chinese legal activist, Chen Guangcheng, and his immediate family have been allowed to emigrate to the U.S.of A., is very encouraging.  Unfortunately, he is but one in a large number of those who, within the People's Republic of China, are incarcerated, or held under "house arrest", for holding and airing views that are deemed to be contary to the position held by the authorities.  "Freedom of speech" appears to be an alien concept within the most populated nation in the world!

As I read of Chen Guangcheng's escape, I thought of so many others whose plight is known to me - and even more of whom I am totally unaware!  I thought of human rights lawyer, and disciple of Jesus, Gao Zhisheng, a 45-year-old attorney who has defended activists and religious minorities, and who is an outspoken critic of the Chinese government.  He was given a suspended sentence of three years in prison on charges of "inciting subversion of state power" in December 2006, with five years of probation.   After the sentence, Mr Gao was placed under house arrest. His wife and two children sought asylum in the United States in early 2009 and are now living in California. Chinese authorities revealed in December 2011 that he was being held in a Xinjiang (western China) prison, after he "seriously violated probation rules".   Earlier this year, Mr Gao's older brother, Gao Zhiyi, told journalists that he had met his brother, but it was "not convenient" for him to elaborate further. 

Christian political dissident Liu Xianbin recently received a ten year prison sentence, after having been tried for treason in The People’s Court of Suining in China’s south-central province of Sichuan.  He had been arrested almost a year ago on charges of “inciting subversion” against “state power”, after he had posted a series of internet articles demanding political reform.

Dr Fan Yafeng, head of the Chinese Christian Human Rights' Lawyers Association, has been under house arrest since October 12th, 2010. He was taken in for questioning on December 9 and was tortured repeatedly over several days, according to China Aid.  Dr Fan, his wife, and their young son - who were also arrested and interrogated - remain under house arrest to this day, with Domestic Security Protection agents standing guard round-the-clock at the door of their apartment.

The Uyghur house church leader Alimujiang, in Xinjiang, has now served four years in prison. In February 2011, his appeal was rejected and his original 15-year sentence was upheld.  The vice-president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, Shi Enhao, was sentenced in July 2011 to two years of re-education through labour. Many well-known Christian human rights lawyers were persecuted: Jiang Tianyong and Li Fangping in Beijing, and Guangzhou’s Tang Jingling, were both abducted and tortured by the government. 

Some well-known Christian lawyers and political dissidents have also been punished: Chen Wei from Sichuan province, and Chen Xi from Guizhou province, were sentenced to 9- and 10-year prison terms, respectively; Zhu Yufu from Zhejiang province is still in jail awaiting the result of his trial nearly a year after his arrest. Beijing’s Ni Yulan, and her husband, Dong Jiqin, are in jail awaiting trial and sentencing. A well-known Christian in the film and visual arts, Jiang Yaxi, is also in prison awaiting trial. 

It would be good to think that Chen Guangchen's new-found liberty is the beginning of a move by the Chinese authorities to permit citizens of the Republic to hold, and express, their opinions in a reasonable manner.  Sadly, there is actually little to suggest that this one instance is anything more than a temporary sop to USA-Chinese relationships.  Perhaps Hillary Clinton will take these other cases on board, as well!

(most of the information in this post has been gleaned from China Aid: http://www.chinaaid.org/  )

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