September 11, 2014
Susan Rice completes a three-day visit to Beijing Tuesday, with the aim to strengthen cooperation amid bilateral tension and crises in the Middle East and Europe. A sign that the U.S. National Security Adviser has made progress would be Beijing’s decision to allow human-rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng to leave China for medical treatment in the United States.
The Chinese government has punished Mr. Gao for nearly a decade for his legal work on behalf of factory workers, dispossessed land owners and especially religious minorities, including Christians and Falun Gong members. Released from Shaya prison in western China on Aug. 7, he is under house arrest without access to doctors.
Mr. Gao needs medical care after being confined from December 2011 until last month to a dark cell with no access to the outside world. The guards, who fed him one slice of bread and one piece of cabbage per day, refused to speak to him. His lawyers say he shed 50 pounds and lost teeth to malnutrition. Mr. Gao has written that in previous detentions he was burned with lit cigarettes, beaten with pistols and electrocuted. Torturers pierced his genitals with toothpicks.
From 2006-09, state security terrorized Mr. Gao’s family by occupying their Beijing apartment and denying them any privacy. His wife and children fled in 2009 and received asylum in the United States—”our adopted country,” says his wife Geng He, who has asked U.S. leaders to request her husband’s release for medical care outside China. Such a request stands a decent chance now, as the U.S. and China are preparing a presidential summit on the sidelines of November’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Beijing.
While Ms. Rice has plenty on her agenda, from the summit to maritime territorial disputes and cyber espionage, issues of political freedom and human rights deserve a prominent place. One is Hong Kong’s fading freedoms. Another is Gao Zhisheng, a brave advocate whom Beijing has abused long enough.