A group of top Chinese attorneys have established the first association to protect the rights of Christians and religious freedom in China.
Through the U.S.-based Chinese Christian persecution watchdog China Aid Association (CAA), the formation of the Association of Human Rights Attorneys for Chinese Christians was announced on Friday. According to the press statement, the Association is founded "to safeguard the rights of Chinese Christians, to let love and righteousness prevail in China and to promote the rule of law in China."
All the members of the Association are top Chinese attorneys and legal scholars. They were all selected as "Person of the Year in Asia" for 2005 by Asia Newsweek. Gao Zhisheng, who has been under constant surveillance by plain-clothes police officers since last October, and was almost killed in a recent mysterious car crash, is one of the founders. The other founding members include Wang Yi, Li Baiguang, Teng Biao and Fan Yafeng.
Gao Zhisheng, Wang Yi, Teng Biao and Fan Yafeng were some of the eight human rights attorneys that have volunteered too appeal for a prominent Beijing house pastor Cai Zhuohua last year. Cai was charged for running "illegal business practices" and handed a prison sentence of three years after police found a large number of Bibles and religious materials in a church warehouse. Despite of repeated appeals, the verdict remains the same.
According to the Epoch Times, the representing attorneys are leading figures in China's legal field interested in safeguarding citizens' civil rights. Wang Yi and Fan Yafeng, however, rarely practice law.
"Several of us who uphold human rights and who volunteered as attorneys in Cai's case have studied law. In recent years, we have written articles supporting the civil movements and to safeguard basic human rights. Rarely did we involve ourselves in legal cases," Wang Yi, a Law lecturer at Chengdu University, told the Epoch Times.
"Whether viewed from the standpoint of freedom of religious belief, freedom of publication, or China's escalating persecution against house churches, Cai's case is of supreme importance. That's why we decided to take part in the case."
Fan Yafeng and Teng Biao have also supported a prominent Christian businessman last October to regain control over his business. The 45-year-old Tong Qimiao was forced to close down his furniture factory in Xinjiang province after he threatened to sue police for allegedly torturing him because of his ties with house church and religious rights watchers.
Among the founding members of the Association of Human Rights Attorneys for Chinese Christians, Gao Zhisheng and Li Baiguang belongs to the unregistered church Beijing Church of Ark, which is very well-known for attended by many famous writers and lawyers. The Church was being targeted by the police for the last two consecutive Sunday worships and raided by policemen.
Dan Dane, a U.S. Administrative Law Judge in West Texas, comments on the establishment of the Chinese Christian rights protection attorneys’ team, according to CAA.
"As an attorney in the United States for over three decades, including service as a US prosecutor and as a federal judge, I understand the need for competent and courageous defense lawyers in any system of justice," said Dane. "I commend the efforts of these brave lawyers as they commit themselves to the protection of the rights of Christians in China. May God bless their work."
"We strongly encourage the Chinese persecuted faithful to openly pursue their inalienable constitutional religious freedom rights within the spirit of the rule of law," said Rev. Bob Fu, president of CAA.