WASHINGTON – Near-death torture and medical or food deprivation describe the experience of innocent prisoners under China’s latest Communist officials, experts said at a recent Capitol Hill briefing.
A panel of Chinese, American and European leaders discussed the horrifying realities under the regime in a March 5 event sponsored by ChinaAid and Freedom House.
“The things that take place in China amount in my view to a modern genocide,” said Edward McMillan-Scott.
McMillan-Scott, vice president of the European Parliament, described the Chinese government over the span of his lifetime as growing into the “most arbitrary, brutal and corrupt regime in the world.”
Blind since childhood and now a prominent human rights activist, Chen Guangcheng explained the recent cyber-attacks launched by China on the press in the United States earlier this year. He also talked about life under the new Communist regime for his nephew and himself.
“In China they can openly go to your house to grab things, beat you, rob you of your abilities and your freedom,” Chen said.
Chen is known as a “barefoot lawyer,” or a self-taught activist, who advocates for victims of forced sterilization and abortions, as well as women and the poor in China. He is commonly known for his organization of a class-action lawsuit against the city of Linyi in the province of Shandong for violent enforcement of the one-child policy.
Placed under house arrest for about a year and formally arrested in June 2006, Chen was not allowed to have a lawyer. He was sentenced to four years and three months and was released in September 2010, then placed under house arrest and intense police scrutiny. Amnesty International deemed him a prisoner of conscience and issued appeals for his release.
“It’s incumbent upon the Chinese people to continuously fight for moral high ground and to bring moral legitimacy, not just to rely on what is written in books for law,” Chen said.
He left China for New York City with his wife and two children in April 2012 following negotiations between the U.S. and China.
“I hope this Congress will take actions to help to break the Berlin Wall on the Internet, the cyber Berlin Wall in China. I hope this new Congress will give it some thought and take some tangible actions that can be seen by the world,” Chen said.
Geng He, wife of human rights lawyer Gao Zisheng, shared some of her husband’s experiences under the regime. She, like Chen, hopes U.S. and European officials will place appropriate pressure on the authoritarian Chinese government. Last fall, China’s Congress announced a new board of Communist Party leaders.
“Facing this situation, Gao doesn’t have any fear [of] those in power, and he has tried to spread righteousness and justice and human rights by utilizing his knowledge and capabilities as a lawyer. With his familiarity with law and eloquence, he was able to win cases for many victims. As a result, he enjoyed a very positive reputation and even love in the hearts of the people,” Geng said.
Geng escaped from China with her two children. Her husband is still detained.
She described to the briefing audience how the police monitored her children and her. Geng also explained the emotional and mental distress that her daughter went through while being escorted to school in police vehicles.
During her husband’s detainment, the family was not adequately allowed visitation, she said. When the family asked where Gao went during his “disappearances,” the guards would respond by saying, “We don’t know. Why are you asking us?” Geng said. The family later learned Gao was being horribly tortured by the police during those times.
Geng is distressed, but, like Chen, she is hopeful the U.S. will not be silent at the injustice. She quoted the poignant words of Martin Luther King Jr., saying, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
McMillan-Scott, a friend of Gao and his family, regards Gao as “a very genuine expert lawyer, as well as a Christian.” He recounted the few times that Gao has been able to contact him by phone while detained. When Gao described his condition, McMillan-Scott quickly understood Gao, like Chen, is a prisoner of conscience.
“Now I have to say personally I have no religious beliefs, but I do believe it’s clear that religious freedom is a fundamental part of any society. Even the Chinese Constitution provides that freedom, although of course it doesn’t exist in China,” McMillan-Scott said.
To illustrate the brutality of the regime, McMillan-Scott recalled a time when Gao told him of his near-death torture. He would awake from being attacked, and people would be standing around him in white coats. Scott explained that when Gao asked why the regime did not want him to die, they replied with a very grim statement:
“We don’t want you to die; we want you to want to die.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tonika Reed is an intern with the Washington bureau of Baptist Press.)