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(Washington, D.C.—Aug. 17, 2011) A top U.S. human rights official has urged Vice President Joseph Biden to raise religious persecution cases, in particular the disappearance of Christian lawyer Gao Zhisheng, in bilateral talks during his current five-day visit to China.
Biden’s visit to Beijing, which began Wednesday, coincides with the five-year anniversary of the first disappearance into police custody of Gao, who during brief periods of freedom in the past five years has described horrific torture inflicted on him by Chinese police during his disappearances.
Gao’s case was specifically mentioned in the two-page letter to Biden by Leonard Leo, chairman of the bi-partisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
“His case is emblematic of China’s continued repression of all forms of public dissent, of individuals such as Liu Xiaobo, Chen Guancheng and Fan Yafeng who sought peaceful reform and universal rights, as well as the Shouwang Church in Beijing, whose weekly public prayer services have led to members being intimidated, detained, and arrested,” Leo wrote in his Aug. 15 letter.
He urged Biden to stress to the Chinese government the importance of religious freedom.
“We hope you will speak candidly about the pivotal nature of religious freedom and related rights and about our desire to build better relations on a foundation of greater freedoms, universal rights, and the rule of law for all of China’s citizens,” he said.
“Such a message will resonate with a Chinese population increasingly skeptical that economic prosperity alone will solve mounting social and political discontent or ensure China’s “peaceful rise.”
The letter was accompanied by a selected listing of 12 religious freedom prisoners in China. In addition to Uyghur Christian Alimujiang Yimiti, who is serving a 15-year sentence for proselytizing among Uyghurs, the others included Falungong practitioners, house church Christians, Catholics faithful to the Pope, Tibetans, Muslims and lawyers who were defending victims of official religious persecution.
Read Leo’s letter here:
The list of prisoners is here: