In Afterglow of Chen Guangcheng, Much Left to be Desired for Human Rights in China

human rights first

By Alison Searle
Human Rights Defenders Program

The arrival of Chen Guangcheng in the United States has dominated headlines recently, but it is important to remember that he is just one of many lawyers and human rights defenders facing persecution in China. There are thousands unable to speak and act freely. Human Rights first urges the United States to speak out publicly against their persecution and to establish a consistent support mechanism for human rights defenders in China and elsewhere.

We’re monitoring the cases of several men and women who continue to fight for human rights in China, including:

Chen Guangcheng (in the United States) Chen is a blind human rights lawyer who had been detained since the rejection of his final appeal in 2007. He was released from prison in September 2010, but continued to be detained under house arrest. In April 2012, Chen made a daring escape from house arrest, seeking refuge in the U.S. Embassy. He was then transferred by a US diplomatic escort to a Chinese hospital where he received treatment for injuries incurred during the escape. After weeks of uncertainty about his visa status and future in China, he and his family were granted passports and they arrived on May 19th in New York City, where Chen plans to study law. The new concern is for his family members still in China, particularly his nephew, Chen Kegui, who is being detained on charges of attempted murder.

Wang Yonghang (Detained) Wang is a human rights attorney serving a 7-year sentence for publishing letters online advocating for religious freedom and representing Falun Gong members. He was sentenced in February 2010 after being forcefully removed from his home and beaten by Chinese authorities. In May 2012, sources said he had been subjected to long-term persecution and torture in detention. In the last six months his health has deteriorated significantly and he is suffering from tuberculosis, as well as pleural and peritoneal effusions, showing signs of partial paralysis. His wife fears for his life and Chinese authorities refuse to admit to his poor health or provide additional medical treatment.

Gao Zhisheng (Detained) Gao is a Christian human rights attorney who was repeatedly kidnapped, arrested, and tortured by Chinese authorities in 2008-2009. After a year of being disappeared, Gao resurfaced in 2010 and spoke with his family for the first time since he was abducted from his home in 2009. After visiting with in-laws in April 2010 he informed family members that he would be returning to Beijing a few days later. He never arrived home and has not been seen or heard from since. In December 2011, the Chinese government announced that Gao violated probationary measures and sentenced him, though they declined to release the record. He’s serving out his 3-year sentence in Shaya County Prison in Xinjian.

Ni Yulan (Detained) A former lawyer and housing rights activist, Ni was sentenced to two years in prison for obstructing justice in 2008. She was detained for filming the forced demolition of a Beijing home and resisting the forced demolition of her own home. Ni became disabled after being repeatedly beaten by police while in government custody. In April 2011 she and her husband were detained for “creating a disturbance,” though the case did not appear before the court until December 2011. On April 10, 2012, in a hearing that only lasted ten minutes, Ni was sentenced to two years and eight months and her husband, Dong, to two years. They remain detained.

Liu Wei (Law License Revoked) A human rights lawyer from Beijing’s Shunhe Law Firm, Liu has not had her license to practice law renewed by the judicial authorities after an annual review of her performance on May 31, 2009. Liu is part of a group of about twenty lawyers whose licenses were stripped for taking ‘sensitive’ human rights cases. Most of the others have succeeded in having their licenses returned after negotiations with the authorities. Ms. Liu has defended Falun Gong practitioners, human rights activists and HIV/AIDS carriers who faced discrimination. She continues to fight for human rights today, despite being disbarred.

Li Fangping (Released in May 2011) Li is a prominent human rights lawyer who was involved in a number of high-profile cases regarding victims of political and religious persecution. In April 2011, he was kidnapped and held in an unknown location. He was released on May 4, 2011, following six days in secret detention. The AP reported that following his release, Li hewed to the practice of many human rights defenders and declined to give details about his detention.

Ran Yunfei (Released in August 2011) Ran is a well-known and widely read Chinese blogger who frequently advocated democracy and human rights. He was detained for six months for inciting subversion, but his unexpected release is possibly linked to an online advocacy effort by government critic, Ai Weiwei.

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