For Immediate Release: February 15, 2012
Washington, DC – Human Rights First is urging Vice President Joseph Biden to raise attacks on religious freedom in China during the U.S. visit of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping to the United States. Last week, in the run up to this week’s meetings, the Chinese government denied a visa to Suzan Johnson Cook, U.S. Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom, who was planning a Feb. 8 visit to China.
“The Vice President’s visit is an important opportunity to advance the cause of human rights and religious freedom in China. The Administration cannot stay quiet on such an important human rights issue while high ranking Chinese officials are in the U.S.,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “The administration should make a public statement raising concerns about the persecution of human rights and religious freedom activists and invite the Chinese to engage with the U.S. government on these issues.”
In recent months, there has been an intense crackdown on human rights activists throughout China. For example, Human Rights First is closely following the case of Gao Zhisheng , a lawyer who has been held in and out of detention and tortured since 2005, including a long period in which he was disappeared. Gao had defended religious freedom, the rights of religious minorities and other human rights that the Chinese Courts theoretically protect as part of the Chinese Constitution. He is presently in detention in remote western China without access to his family. His wife testified before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China yesterday.
“The deals that are made this week during the visit will prove to be short-sighted if the human rights violations continue,” Dooley noted. “Protecting human rights lawyers as Gao, and other human rights activists should be the first order of business.”