Obama urged to press Hu on missing lawyer, jailed activists

Friday, January 14, 2011

BEIJING - Human rights groups Friday urged US President Barack Obama to press his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, over missing lawyer Gao Zhisheng and other jailed activists.

“We hope you will seize the opportunity before you - an opportunity nearly all Chinese lack - to confront the Chinese leadership about its profound disrespect for universal human rights,” nine international rights groups said in an open letter to Obama ahead of his meeting Wednesday in Washington with Hu.

Obama should call for the release of jailed 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and “others imprisoned for doing nothing more than peacefully criticizing the Chinese government,” said the letter, which was signed by groups that included Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and the International Campaign for Tibet.

In a separate statement, the US-based Christian rights group China Aid said Obama should urge China to end its “illegal mistreatment and tormenting” of human rights lawyer Gao, legal activist Chen Guangcheng and Christian rights lawyer Fan Yafeng.

“We are troubled by the increasingly mafia-like tendencies of the Chinese authorities and the general deterioration in the human rights and rule-of-law situation in China,” Bob Fu, the head of China Aid, said.

Gao’s exiled wife, Geng He, told US-based Radio Free Asia that she planned to protest in front of the White House Wednesday.

State security police have apparently held Gao under extrajudicial detention since he disappeared in February 2009.

Gao briefly reappeared in Beijing in April, meeting several friends and at least one foreign journalist in an apparently police-managed event.

His friend and fellow lawyer Li Heping, who met him in April, said Gao appeared to be in good health but showed signs of having undergone “great suffering”.

China Aid Wednesday issued a previously unpublished account by Gao of his earlier torture by Chinese police, saying his wife had decided to release the document.

In the January 2009 account, Gao said he was “constantly in a situation of peril”.

“Since more than three years, the authorities invested a large amount of manpower, money as well as employed the most merciless methods to achieve their goal to silence me,” he wrote.

Gao alleged that he was “tortured to near-death” but said there was “nothing more traumatising” than his daughter’s inability to find a school because of his activism.

“We call on the Chinese government to immediately give an accounting to the international community of the fate of lawyer Gao and allow him to come to America to be reunited with his wife and family,” Fu said.

“We hope that President Obama during his meetings with President Hu will publicly bring up these requests of the international community,” he said.

Geng and the couple’s two children made a dramatic escape from close police surveillance and arrived in the US in January 2009 after travelling overland from China to Thailand.

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