LU student testifies before congress on father’s plight in China

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Originally published by The News & Advance on June 29, 2017

On Wednesday, Liberty University student Chongyu Xia took his fight for his father’s freedom to the United States government.

The rising junior, fighting for the release of his father, Xia Lin, a human rights lawyer currently imprisoned in China, spoke before American legislators Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

“I am not alone,” Chongyu Xia said in a statement to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC). “As a rising nation, China’s deteriorating human rights record is unacceptable. When a human rights lawyer cannot secure his own fundamental rights, I believe every member’s rights in the society are threatened.”

Chongyu Xia was one of four people to testify at the hearing titled “Gagging the Lawyers: China’s Crackdown on Human Rights Lawyers and Its Implications for U.S.-China Relations.” The others were Terence Halliday, co-director of the Center on Law & Globalization at the American Bar Foundation; Teng Biao, Chinese human rights lawyer and co-founder of the Open Constitution Initiative and China Human Rights Accountability Center; and Li Xiaorong, an independent scholar formerly with the University of Maryland Institute for Philosophy & Public Policy.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., chairman of the CECC, and Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., co-chair of the CECC, led the hearing.

“Chinese officials repeatedly tell me that I should focus more on the positive aspects of China and not dwell so much on the negative,” Smith began, according to video of the event. “ … That is an extremely difficult task when you read the horrifying and sadistic accounts of torture and enforced disappearances experienced by lawyers and rights advocates.”

Xia Lin was arrested Nov. 8, 2014, and accused of “gambling and fraud,” according to the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) , a coalition of Chinese and international human rights non-governmental organizations dedicated to the promotion of human rights through peaceful efforts, according to its website.

Renee Xia, international director at CHRD , said Xia Lin’s arrest was related directly to his work as a lawyer, where he handled high-risk cases defending human rights activists, lawyers, and ethnic or religious minorities.

“We believe the unfair trial and harsh prison sentence against Mr. Xia [Lin] is the government’s retaliation for his lawyerly work defending his clients’ due process rights, in violation of Chinese law and international human rights law,” Renee Xia said.

CHRD researcher Frances Eve said Xia Lin is a victim of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s oppression of dissenting voices and lawyers.

“The ‘fraud’ case was clearly pre-determined from the beginning and an act of revenge for his professional work as a lawyer,” Eve said, calling Xia Lin’s case a “mockery of justice.”

Chongyu Xia agreed and previously has told The News & Advance the fraud and gambling charges against his father were fake.

“We’re pretty sure this is political persecution,” he said.

Xia Lin was sentenced April 20 to 10 years in prison, after initially being sentenced to 12 years last September.

After the sentencing, Chongyu Xia began fighting his father’s charges with renewed vigor, starting a petition that quickly garnered thousands of signatures from all over the world, with more than 95,320 names sitting on the list as of Thursday night.

Less than a month later, on May 9, Chongyu Xia marched up the steps to the Embassy of China in Washington, D.C., to deliver the letter featured in his petition.

His case was not heard by the embassy that day, Chongyu Xia said, and so he read his letter aloud outside the building before retreating down the steps.

But that setback didn’t stop him or his mother, Ru Lin, who is in China fighting for her husband’s release, Chongyu Xia said.

“I refuse to accept this illegal and unjust verdict,” Chongyu Xia said.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Rubio said July 9 will mark the two-year anniversary of the “709” crackdown, which was the start of what has been described as an unprecedented nationwide crackdown on human rights lawyers and legal advocates in China.

“While perhaps unprecedented in scale and coordination — nearly 300 rights advocates were detained, summoned for questioning, or disappeared — the crackdown began much earlier,” Rubio said according to transcripts.

Halliday said the “709” crackdown occurred due to the quickly intensifying economic and social problems in China lawyers had been drawing attention to in highly visible ways.

“Clearly, China’s leaders felt vulnerable to activist, die-hard and ordinary lawyers’ enhanced powers to mobilize publics,” he said, explaining Chinese activist lawyers have increased in number and united on social media platforms to mobilize and inspire others.

Biao detailed a chain of events that involved multiple kidnappings by China’s secret police, being disbarred and ultimately torture in a “black jail,” defined by NGO Human Rights Watch as secret, unlawful detention facilities, for 70 days.

“Dozens of lawyers were severely tortured, including beatings, electric shocks, sleep deprivation, prolonged interrogations, death threats, months or years of solitary confinement, humiliation, forcible televised confessions, so on and so on,” he said. “Notably, it has been confirmed that many lawyers and activists were force-fed with medicines which caused them muscle pain, blurred vision and other physical and mental harm.”

Biao, Chongyu Xia and the other members ended their statement with a plea for the U.S. government to increase its involvement with human rights cases in China and hold China accountable through means such as expulsion from the UN Human Rights Council.

“A powerful and autocratic China will bring calamities to mankind,” Biao said. “Supporting democracy and human rights in China not only corresponds to American declared values; it will also benefit American politics, society and economics in the long term.

“Please stand on the side of Chinese people, not on the side of Chinese Communist Party.”

Chongyu Xia said human rights lawyers are the cornerstone of society, and by taking a clear stance, the U.S. Government would communicate to the world that human rights violations will not be tolerated.

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