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Radio Free Asia: American Secretary of State Kerry meets relatives of China’s Dissenting Prisoners

Friday, October 2, 2015

Radio Free Asia

During the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s State Visit, United States Secretary of State John Kerry met with a number of relatives of China’s prisoners of conscience and representatives of non-governmental organizations on Sept. 23. However, Chinese rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s wife, Geng He, refused, explaining via Twitter that her husband, Gao Zhisheng, sent a letter to stop her from participating.

Associated Press reported on Sept. 23 that Kerry had met with several relatives of China’s prisoners of conscience that afternoon at the U.S. State Department office, including Xinjiang-imprisoned Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti’s daughter, Juer Yilihamu, and the co-founder of Chinese NGO Beijing Yirenping Center, Liu Jun.

Secretary of State John Kerry
(Photo: RFA)
Talking about the meeting with Kerry, Lu Jun, who is currently a visiting scholar at the US-Asia Law Institute of New York University, said during his interview with RFA: “There were six human rights activists, NGO workers and relatives of persecuted human rights activists attending this meeting. They talked for more than an hour. The State Congress’s invitation letter said to meet with the Assistant Secretary of State and did not mention that Kerry would come. We mainly talked with Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski. Kerry came during that time.”

Liu Jun explains that he expressed concern about China’s Overseas NGO Management Law draft and other deeply concerning questions in the meeting that day.

“Our primary topic is our work, anti-discrimination and women’s rights. Already, almost a year has gone by since Beijing Yirenping Center received continuous pressure, personnel were detained and the office was inspected. I have separately discussed Overseas NGO Management Law. Because this law concerns international NGOs in China that are developing work and projects and China working together with other countries in the domain of public benefit—all of it sets up a variety of obstacles.”

The report said China human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s wife, Geng He, who received an invitation to the U.S. State Department, refused to attend this meeting. Geng He told the Associated Press reporter: “They [the U.S. government in Washington] haven’t spoken to us in five years, for the while time we’ve been here. Why would we participate in a meeting now?” Geng said she has little hope that Obama will talk enough about Gao Zhisheng’s problem during the Xi-Obama meeting. She said, “I think human rights cannot be separated from the relationship of trade and economics. They are supposed to put human rights issues as their chief topic of conversation, but I don’t think they are willing to do this.”

On Sept. 24, the reporter from RFA called Geng He’s phone many times and left a voice message, but did not get a reply by press time.

In 2009, Geng He took her two children and left China. Currently, they reside in Cupertino, California. On Sept. 22, one day before the U.S. State Department meeting, Geng He, through Twitter, posted a letter from her husband, Gao Zhisheng, “urgently stopping” her from going to Washington for the meeting, saying: “A meeting with the President is not what we need today, not to mention his assistants. Why are they being so secretive? What do they fear? Who is fearful? Who is scared to show up in public?” He also criticized the U.S. political groups working hand-in-hand with Xi Jinping. Therefore, he decided against Geng He meeting with the Deputy Secretary of State, because he thought it would be inappropriate. Gao thinks believes China’s regime will collapse in 2017 and requested that Geng He not get in touch with any western political group.

The report said that a long-term critic of China’s Communist Party, U.S. House of Representatives member Chris Smith (R-N.J.), explained: “I understand Gao Zhisheng’s anger. The government spoke of his legal case but never asked China to pay the price for his mistreatment, that of his family and the experiences of terror they endured.”

Including China Aid, Human Rights Watch and many other U.S. NGOs came together on Sept. 9 to deliver U.S. President Obama a public letter, calling on Obama to invite oppressed Chinese human rights advocates to visit the White House. Regarding the U.S. State Department meeting with the families of Chinese dissidents, China Aid Vice President Kody Kness said in a phone interview:

“I feel this meeting is very important. Meeting [with the families of prisoners of conscience] is the first step. But the meeting will only have significance if there is action afterwards. That is to say, if Secretary of State Kerry or President Obama can discuss this issue during their meetings with Chinese leaders, saying ‘We met with the families of these prisoners of conscience and encourage Chinese authorities to free them,’ then this meeting has achieved an effect. But if they only meet with the families of these prisoners of conscience, and afterwards the State Department does nothing in reply to these messages, those meetings are just one-time meetings and do not have value.”

According to Kody Kness, two family members of China’s political prisoners who received China Aid’s help attended the Sept. 23 event at the U.S. State Department. They are Zhang Huixin, imprisoned Pastor Zhang Shaojie’s daughter, from Nanle, Henan, and Chen Qiao, the daughter of a democracy movement activist Liu Xianbin imprisoned in Sichuan. In addition, the wife and son of Guo Feixiong, a human rights prisoner in Guangdong, Guo Feixiong’s wife and son also were invited to participate in the Sept. 23 events at the U.S. State Department, but were unable to attend, due to a flight delay. because their flight arrived too late, Guo Feixiong’s wife could not attend the U.S. State Department meeting.

Reported by Lin Ping. Edited by Jia Hua.

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