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Democracy Movement Gets Angry About Gao Zhisheng Arrest
Dissidents and activists decry outrage of lawyer's detention
Jud Nirenberg and Curry Kenworthy, CSN
(CSN) — Chinese dissidents and democracy activists have come out in unison denouncing the arrest of Gao Zhisheng and demanding his release.
On August 15, Gao Zhisheng was arrested by plainclothes police and has since been held for interrogation by the Beijing Bureau of Public Security. Authorities say vaguely that he is being questioned regarding alleged crimes. The exact charges against him remain unknown. Gao is a well-known lawyer in China due to his work on several human rights cases. He is the founder of the Shengzhi Law Office in Beijing which was shut down, according to Amnesty International, due to involvement in rights cases.
A recently converted Christian, Gao has been a leading name among rights activists for years and has asked for greater attention from the West.
"During the reign of the Chinese Communist Party," says Gao, "80 million people [have] been killed. Why has the world around us done nothing?"
Since his arrest, Chinese and foreign critics of the Chinese government have rallied around Gao. Recently, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom condemned the arrest of Gao and a fellow lawyer, Xu Zhiyang. On August 22nd, protesters gathered at the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles to call for Gao's release.
Speaking up for Gao, NoManZero band member and activist Tim Britt said, "Those who support a Chinese fair and just legal system free from bias of the CCP stand in awe of [Mr. Gao]. He continued to stand up for what is fair and right regardless of whether he would suffer and in fact did so full well knowing that he likely would encounter hardship. By almost any definition, Gao Zhinsheng is a hero."
Timothy Cooper, executive director of Worldrights, also weighed in. "Not content to stifle due process by barring a defendants' right to call witnesses at trial, the Chinese government appears to have taken up a new tactic: Threatening, beating and detaining defense lawyers who resist state-sponsored efforts to undermine their clients' defense. All the while, the state continues to insist that its society is rapidly becoming one ruled by the tenants of law. Such cynical representations by the government confirm only one thing: The more things economically progress in China, the more they politically regress."
Huang Ciping, executive director of the Wei Jingsheng Foundation, stated, "From here, once again, we see the truth that, for these human rights lawyers, there are no human rights even for themselves. And we see the blind Chinese legal system manipulated by the Chinese government as a tool to against human rights and humanity, even against a blind person who has the courage and wisdom of light to help the others."
Huang proceeded: "I am here, on behalf of the Wei Jingsheng Foundation, calling for the immediately release of Lawyer Gao Zhisheng, Mr. Chen Guangchen, and all the other human rights defenders. We are here to call for the awareness and support of international society and your American people to the Chinese human rights abuses, especially the continued suppression against the political dissidents, underground church members and Falun Gong practitioners."
Gao's family has been put under house guard. Several recent arrests of lawyers seem to indicate that the Chinese government is attempting to punish lawyers who represent people raising questions of religious freedom and other rights, land seizures and environmental abuse, according to the International Herald Tribune.
A letter of protest from Chinese intellectuals in China and abroad stated, "we cannot see any plausible reasons which could lead to Lawyer Gao Zhisheng's detention and interrogation."
The China Support Network's director emeritus, John Kusumi, spoke emphatically about the injustice. "This news out of China is especially bad. Gao Zhisheng is a non-Falun Gong practitioner—in fact a Christian—attorney who went to bat for Falun Gong. He has strived mightily to prompt China towards the rule of law. We may recall that China has a constitution that assures freedom of religion and the right to criticize the government. Gao's arrest threatens both Christians and Falun Gong practitioners, and is a distressing turn in the weather—a downturn for human rights."
Kusumi continued: "For the good of China's future, the present state of affairs won't serve. What we should say is, 'Release Gao. Release Wang Bingzhang. Release Yang Jianli. And, release all Falun Gong practitioners.'"
NoManZero's Britt concluded with a heart-felt message, "The CCP should realize that Gao remembers that God is his torch in his now dark CCP-controlled world and that his strength and resolve is buffered up by a power far greater than all the kings of the earth. Our prayers go out for Gao. And that in itself stings against a CCP regime that has tryed to outlaw the very concept of God. CCP . . . free Gao Zhinsheng now!!! You will be glad you did."
Jud Nirenberg is president of Cleisthenes Consulting. His extensive nonprofit experience includes leadership of the European Roma and Travelers Forum.
Curry Kenworthy is executive director of China Support Network.
Begun as the American response group in 1989, CSN represents Americans who are "on the side" of the students in Tiananmen Square — standing for democratic reform, human rights, and freedom in China. For dissident news; to support a stronger China policy; or get more information, see http://www.chinasupport.net.
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