WASHINGTON (BP) — While hundreds of millions of Chinese have emerged from poverty in recent years, China’s people are not any freer due to a “brutally repressive” government, Sen. John Cornyn, R.-Texas, told a Capitol Hill audience Tuesday.
The Chinese regime imposes forced sterilization and infanticide, represses religious freedom and refuses to uphold basic human rights. During a human rights seminar highlighting the China Aid Association’s 10th anniversary, Cornyn called these actions “continued and ongoing horrific abuses that are simply unjust and a manifestation of evil.”
Chinese officials have such a blatant disregard for human life, Cornyn charged, that political prisoners are slaughtered “so their organs can be harvested for transplants.”
ChinaAid exists to focus worldwide attention on the plight of Chinese Christians and others who are persecuted for their religious or political beliefs.
The July 24 seminar on “Human Rights, Religious Freedom and the Rule of Law in China: A 10-Year Review and Future Prospects,” included addresses by Cornyn and a Chinese human rights attorney, Teng Biao, who has been imprisoned for his work.
Cornyn, who sits on the Senate Finance, Judiciary, Armed Services and Budget committees, called on the U.S. government and the American people to “be linked arm-in-arm with the Chinese people to promote the guarantee of human rights and religious freedom.” Cornyn said the continued outgrowth of “peaceful activism in the face of continued government repression is the means we have to continue this effort for justice and freedom.”
Prior to the recent Washington visit by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinpin, who is expected by many to be named as China’s president this fall, Cornyn recounted that he and 10 other senators wrote to President Obama to urge that he convey “strong opposition” to China’s ongoing “political and religious repression.”
The senators called on Obama to push Jinpin to end such abuses as extrajudicial killings; enforced disappearances; prolonged illegal detentions at unofficial holding facilities known as “black jails”; torture of prisoners; detention and harassment of journalists, writers, dissidents and others; severe religious oppression; and the continued coercive one-child policy that has led to forced abortions and sterilizations.
Teng Biao, the human rights attorney, risked being detained, beaten and tortured again for speaking to the ChinaAid audience via a videotaped statement from China in which he discussed his work to defend those who are persecuted for their religious beliefs.
Biao’s caseload has included church leaders charged with holding unsanctioned worship services in their homes, such as Shi Weihan, who was imprisoned for three years for his faith. Biao is a lecturer at the University of Politics and Law in Beijing. He has been a vocal supporter of human rights activists such as blind civil rights activist and recently escaped house arrest prisoner Chen Guangcheng and activist and dissident Hu Jia. Biao has been arrested and held at least twice, in March 2008 and in February 2011.
Through an interpreter, Biao said he had witnessed entire congregations praying aloud in devotional meetings but had never prayed himself. That quickly changed after the first time he was arrested, dragged away to prison, beaten and physically and mentally tortured. Thrown into a dank, fetid cell in isolation after yet another seemingly unending torture session, Biao said he “found it natural at that time to pray.”
“I was often put away for long periods of time in solitary confinement in dirty cells” and made to sit cross-legged and stare at the back cell wall from 6 a.m. to midnight every day, Biao said. His cell had a bucket for a toilet, he was given scraps of rotten food to eat, and “repeatedly questioned about what cases I represented and what new clients I was taking on.”
Biao said “the beatings were bad but the mental torture was unbearable. They told me to not even think of myself as a human being, as a man. They told me over and over again that I was less than a farm animal, less important or worthwhile than an insect.”
Biao said he “had no protection in law. The only protection I had was what I received in prayer. Jesus was my only hope, my only friend, my only protection.”
There is “no religious freedom in China — we are all denied,” Biao said. “We cannot legally testify to our faith or spread the Good Word to our fellow citizens.”
Rep. Frank Wolf, R.-Va., told the ChinaAid seminar he believes the Chinese government will collapse before the human rights group reaches its 20th anniversary.
“If you look at history in 1986, few thought the USSR would fall,” Wolf said. “I had a defector tell me then that Russia was dominating, powerful and that the U.S. government did not understand that Russia was ascending and the communist system there would be strong and around for a long, long time. I heard the same thing about Bosnia and [former Romanian leader Nicolae] Ceausescu.
“I don’t know if I would have the courage of my convictions to stand up for my faith and freedom as these Chinese,” Wolf told the ChinaAid audience. “I have never been tested in such a way. We have read about Catholic cardinals taken away and ‘disappeared’ after holding Mass and about 41 Tibetan monks and nuns who self-immolated themselves in the past six months to protest harsh repression of religious liberty.
“I pray for all those in China who are willing to speak out as these here,” Wolf said.
In reviewing the importance of ChinaAid’s work, Sharon Kang Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China, said the communist government has evoked an “increasing sophistication to manipulate human rights by sidestepping issues, making general statements and creating new laws that are never enforced.”
Hom, a former professor of law at the City University of New York School of Law, said “the ongoing surveillance technology boom has well-served the Chinese in repressing rights and freedoms. At the same time, Chinese officials have integrated human relations and foreign policy to align likeminded countries to shield each other from human rights monitoring and assessment, such as by gaining footholds in various United Nation bodies established to monitor torture and religious freedoms worldwide.”
Compiled by Daniel Walker Guido, a journalist based in Front Royal, Va. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).