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China Slammed for Persecuting Rights Defenders

China is condemned by the United States for the recent detentions of two well-recognized rights defenders, which appeared to be part of a larger attempt to curb individual rights.
( [email protected] ) Aug 25, 2006 12:21 PM EDT

China is condemned by the United States for the recent detentions of two well-recognized rights defenders, which appeared to be part of a larger attempt to curb individual rights.

Chen Guangcheng was sentenced to four years and three months in prison on Thursday by the conviction of damaging property and "organizing a mob to disturb traffic", which Chen’s supporters said were false, according to the state media.

The charge against Chen came after he exposed the story about some local health workers in Linyi city in Shandong forcing people to have late-term abortions or sterilizations in order to enforce the one-child policy.

Earlier this week, another human rights activist and prominent Christian attorney, Gao Zhisheng, was reported to be kidnapped and detained. A Texas-based Chinese Christian persecution watchdog China Aid Association (CAA) said that his and his family whereabouts’ remained unknown.

Gao was known for his bold effort in defending the accused house church leaders on the court. Last year, he attempted to appeal for a house church pastor Cai Zhuohua, who was sentenced to 3-year imprisonment for illegal printing of Bibles.

"We're concerned that Chen's arrest, the detention of his lawyers and the reported detention of another activist, Gao Zhisheng, appear part of a larger pattern of official harassment of indviduals who work to advocate for the legal rights of their fellow citizens," the State Department spokesman Gonzo Gallegos told the Associated Press Friday.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has also condemned Beijing’s persecution against Gao. In April, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution urging the government of China to reinstate all licenses of Gao and his law firm and revise law and practice in China so that it conforms to international standards.

On a Tuesday’s press statement, CAA revealed a group of police officers stayed with Gao’s wife and children (ages 13 and 2) in their apartment after his arrest in order to monitor them. CAA President Bob Fu commented, "The house arrest of Mr. Gao’s family members is absolutely illegal. Forcibly entering and occupying private property is completely in violation of the China’s Constitution. Putting two children under house arrest also violates the International Covenant on Children’s Rights."

CAA calls upon the international community to urgently take prayerful actions to secure Gao’s release. CAA urges President Bush and Secretary Rice to personally intervene for the safety of Gao and his family members.