Smith: Chinese Human Rights Defender Gao Should be Free to Leave China
Welcomes reports of newly released political prisoner Gao Zhisheng; Smith urges President Xi Jinping to ‘correct mistakes of the past’
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), co-chairman of the U.S. Commission on China, (CECC) and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs human rights subcommittee urged the Chinese government to end its harsh policy of arbitrary detention long used against human rights lawyer and religious freedom advocate Gao Zhisheng and allow him to meet his family and friends without restriction. There are growing concerns that Gao will continue to be detained and isolated in “house” detention after his release. This type of detention was used to isolate blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng and is still being used to silence Liu Xia, wife of Nobel Prize laureate Liu Xiabo.
“Gao Zhisheng is a tireless champion for a new China where human rights will be respected and protected through the rule of law,” said Smith. “That Gao endured torture, harsh detention, and almost a decade separated from his family are indefensible abuses and yet another black mark in China’s recent history. He should be allowed to live in freedom, meet with his family without restriction and leave the country if he chooses.”
Gao’s account of the 50 days of torture he endured while in detention can be found here. (see Gao’s full biography).
The Chinese government has expanded its persecution of human rights defenders in the past year. President Xi Jinping’s government has arrested over 220 lawyers, religious leaders, free speech and democracy advocates, and journalists in one of the worst crackdowns in over a decade.
“What happens to Gao could signal whether President Xi is willing to correct the mistakes of the past,” said Smith. “His freedom is a critical step, but is not the only action that must be taken. There still remain too many prisoners of conscience in China, like 2010 Nobel Peace Prize-winner Liu Xiabo and Chen Kegui, the nephew of blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng—the Administration should not shy away from raising these cases constantly and repeatedly. These human rights heroes fight for justice, fairness, liberty, and human dignity in China—freedoms that are essential building blocks of stable and prosperous societies and essential to better U.S. China relations. Gao Zhisheng, and the many like him, should be celebrated by the Chinese government, not tortured, jailed, and exiled.”