LOS ANGELES (BP)–China’s crackdown on religious freedom advocates ahead of the Beijing Olympics has extended to two Christian human rights attorneys.
Attorney Li Heping released a statement saying a group of men ordered him to stop practicing law, beat him and struck him with electric batons for nearly five hours on Saturday night, Sept. 29. The previous Saturday (Sept. 22), human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng and his family reportedly were arrested a day after he sent an open letter to the U.S. Congress listing human rights abuses.
Gao has been under house arrest since his December 2006 conviction for “inciting subversion,” serving a sentence of three years with five years probation for his human rights defense work. China’s The Epoch Times cited an undisclosed source on Sept. 18 saying that Chinese authorities were planning to remove Gao from Beijing ahead of the 2008 Olympics. Gao’s whereabouts are unknown since his Sept. 22 arrest.
Li, who has defended victims of religious persecution and other human rights abuses, said the unidentified men covered his head with a cloth bag, pushed him into a car without a license plate at his workplace parking lot in Beijing’s Chaoyang district and took him to a basement in a Beijing suburb.
“There, several people took turns to beat me brutally, slap my face, hit me on the head with water bottles, and kick me,” Li recounted in his statement. “The most unbearable form of their torture was hitting me with high-voltage electric batons.”
At 1 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 30, the men dropped Li off in a small wooded area near Xiatangshan. When he returned home, Li discovered that materials for a human rights case were missing, along with cell phone cards and portable hard disks, and his notebook computer drives had been wiped clean.
While the men were unidentified in Li’s statement, Bob Fu of the China Aid Association released a statement saying Li told him one of the attackers said they belonged to the Beijing State Security Bureau.
“Asked about their identities by Li, one of the interrogators said they are members of Beijing State Security Bureau,” according to a statement Fu released. “They yelled to him with a standard Beijing accent: All your family should get … out of Beijing. Sell your house and car and get out of Beijing!”
Fu had invited Li and six other human rights lawyers and activists from China to meet with U.S. officials in Washington, D.C., in October 2005.
At the end of Li’s statement, the attorney reiterated his longing for the rule of law and peaceful progress in China.
“I told them at the site of [the] beating that I wouldn’t hate them,” Li said. “I wish the light of rule of law would shine on China and all my Chinese compatriots, including those who beat me.”
Chinese authorities have cracked down in recent months on churches and rights advocates they fear will speak out during next year’s Olympics. In attorney Gao’s open letter to Congress in September, he included firsthand information, documentation and evidence of human rights violations and expressed deep concern about the upcoming Beijing Olympics.
The China Aid Association also reported Oct. 3 that two Beijing house church activists have been held under house arrest since Oct. 1, the Chinese National Day.
Pastor Hua Huiqi and Liu Fenggang, who were released in July and February after serving six-month and three-year prison terms respectively, are not allowed to go out of their homes, CAA said, and their houses have been surrounded by two dozen police.
“Some PSB [Public Security Bureau] officers were even staged on top of Pastor Hua’s roof in order to prevent anyone from coming in or going out,” Fu said in the CAA statement. “Early this morning, October 3, eight PSB officers broke Hua and his wife’s bedroom windows, and then cut off the electricity to their house.”
The officers told Pastor Hua that his 77-year-old mother, Shuang Shuying, has been serving a two-year sentence as a hostage for Hua’s human rights defense.
“She was beaten severely recently without medical care and is now dying in her prison cell,” according to Fu’s statement.
“The brutal act of state terrorism against attorney Li and the two pastors sent a chilling signal to all the peaceful rights defenders in China,” Fu said. “This definitely represents a new low for the environment of human rights and the reality of the rule of law in the city hosting the 2008 Olympics. If China can’t tolerate a moderate lawyer like Mr. Li, who should have any confidence in the Chinese leaders’ other international commitments?”
Jeff M. Sellers is a writer for Compass Direct News, based in Santa Ana, Calif., which provides reports on Christians worldwide who are persecuted for their faith. Used by permission.