At the closing ceremony of the recently concluded 2021 Religious Freedom Summit, Geng Ge, the daughter of rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, called for continued international attention to the disappearance of Gao Zhisheng. Meanwhile, another Chinese rights lawyer, Jiang Tianyong, remains under house arrest, and a visit by his friend Wang Qialing to see him has been obstructed by local state security for various reasons.
Visiting Rights Lawyer Jiang Tianyong Again Obstructed by State Security
Wang Cragging, wife of 709 lawyer Li Heping, visited Jiang Tianyong under house arrest in Henan on July 15, but was stopped by local state security. Wang was intercepted by seven or eight local state guards at the street entrance of Jiang Tianyong’s house, who said they had to ask their superiors to let them go.
In a video circulated on the Internet, when Jiang Tianyong’s lawyer questioned the reason for stopping the visitor, one of the state guards replied, “Aren’t you deprived of your political rights for three years yet? I have to ask my superiors for instructions.”
Jiang Tianyong’s wife, Jin Zailing, who is living in exile in the United States, told the station that the local state security guards had obstructed Wang Qialing’s visits for various reasons, including registration of his identity information, and that the two sides had been at a standstill for a long time.
The deprivation of political rights does not affect friends’ visits,” Jin said. In the near future, as long as (Jiang Tianyong) goes out, those people will follow. I don’t know why, but what would Jiang Tianyong do alone? This is how the house arrest, friends to be questioned and interrogated. At night, Jiang Tianyong is at home, they use flashlights to shine (home yard), and cameras (surveillance).”
Before meeting Jiang Tianyong, Wang Cragging tweeted that he was anxious about how the trip would be blocked by officials: “The last time I came to visit Jiang Tianyong’s parents, I was taken to the police station with my elder aunt and held for 7 hours, and the horrible scene was still fresh in my mind. Later, when I visited his friends, some were pepper sprayed, some were locked up in the police station, and some were detained and arrested. What will happen when I go to his house this time?”
Li Heping, Wang’s husband and a human rights lawyer, was one of the lawyers involved in the “709 arrests”. After his arrest, Jiang Tianyong visited Li Heping’s parents’ home. Wang Cragging tweeted that Jiang Tianyong brought 60 eggs that Li’s mother had personally selected for the visit.
Jiang Tianyong has been involved in a number of human rights cases, including the case of the black brick kilns in Shanxi, the Falun Gong case, and the Chen Guangcheng case, and has been subjected to a lot of repression. “After his release from prison in 2019, Jiang was placed under house arrest at his parents’ home in Henan. Local state security guards were posted at the entrance to his home, monitoring and following him 24 hours a day, and Jiang Tianyong’s personal freedom was severely violated.
Authorities strictly prevented outsiders from contacting Jiang Tianyong. In April, after visiting Jiang Tianyong, Henan citizen Xing Wangli was intimidated and threatened by public security officials and subsequently arrested. In the same month, Jiangsu human rights activists Wang Heying and Tao Hong were also questioned by local state security and followed for several hours when they visited Jiang Tianyong.
Last Friday marked the sixth anniversary of the “709 arrests” of Chinese human rights lawyers. To date, although most of the arrested lawyers have been released, their work and lives are still under surveillance and restricted by the authorities. In addition, many others are still in prison.
On the eve of the sixth anniversary of “709,” U.S. Secretary of State Blinken issued a statement paying tribute to the more than 300 lawyers and human rights defenders who have been improperly imprisoned and suppressed by the Chinese government. Blinken called on the Chinese Communist authorities to release those arrested as soon as possible, to ensure that their families are not harassed, and to allow those whose licenses have been revoked to return to practice law.
The Congressional Administration’s China Committee (CECC) also issued a statement calling on the Chinese Communist authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all detained lawyers and human rights defenders.
Zhisheng Gao’s Daughter Attends Religious Freedom Summit
On July 15, Geng Ge, Gao Zhisheng’s daughter, spoke at the closing session of the 2021 Religious Freedom Summit about her family’s harrowing experience of persecution by the Chinese Communist Party.
Referring to her father, Geng choked up: “I hope everyone has hope in their hearts and do what you can to pray for as many people as possible. Because a lot of people in prison, the only thing that keeps them alive is that people on the outside care about them and are still praying for them, and that’s very important. We can’t forget them, even though we don’t know those people, but they need our faith.”
Zhisheng Gao was selected by the Chinese Ministry of Justice as one of the “Top Ten Lawyers in China” and is known as the “Conscience of China.” In 2005, Zhisheng Gao issued three open letters to then Chinese Communist Party leaders Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, asking the authorities to stop suppressing Falun Gong believers. “On August 13, 2017, Zhisheng Gao was disappeared again, and his whereabouts remain unknown.
Wu Shaoping, a Chinese rights lawyer living in exile in the United States, told the station that in addition to continuing to call on the Chinese Communist authorities to release Zhisheng Gao, the U.S. government needs to take substantive measures to urge China to improve human rights: “The U.S. government should put the Chinese officials involved in the persecution of Zhisheng Gao’s lawyers on the Magnitsky Act (sanctions list). We find that appeals have been untouchable, and only by coming up with some substantial and impactful measures can we have a deterrent effect.”
Zhisheng Gao’s disappearance has drawn widespread international attention. In the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Country Reports 2020 released this year, the persecution of human rights lawyers such as Zhisheng Gao by the Chinese Communist authorities was specifically mentioned. In addition, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) also released a statement on its official website on June 28, expressing ongoing concern about the prolonged imprisonment and torture of people in China. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, independent expert Mary Lawlor, called on the Chinese Communist authorities to release arrested human rights defenders.