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Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

-- Matthew 25:40, NIV

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Radio Free Asia: China Rights Defenders, Dissidents Invited to German Embassy Party

Friday, September 23, 2016

Radio Free Asia

■ Several Chinese dissidents were invited to Germany's Embassy in Beijing on Friday for festivities marking the Oct. 3 Day of German Unity, a move one poet praised as a rare show of support amid an intensifying crackdown on lawyers, activists and bloggers.

Among the guests were activist Hu Jia, the wife of one of the lawyers who disappeared in the July 2015 round-up of hundreds of rights defenders, and journalist Gao Yu, who is on medical parole from a five-year jail term. Gao, 71 or 72, was sentenced to a seven-year jail term in 2015 for "leaking state secrets overseas,”but the sentence was cut on appeal to five years by the Beijing High People's Court last November.

Beijing human rights activist Hu Jia told RFA's Cantonese Service he had talked to European diplomats at the party about the situation of jailed Uyghur scholar IIham Tohti as well as the fate of Xia Lin and other lawyers caught in the crackdown.

Tohti, named last week as a finalist for the European Parliament's 2016 Sakharov Prize, was sentenced to life in prison following his conviction for "separatism" on Sept. 23, 2014.

Lawyer Shang Baojun (L), journalist Gao Yu (C) and writer
Xiang Li (R) raise glasses at the German embasy in Beijing,
Sept. 23, 2016. Photo provided by an activist
Xia Lin, a lawyer whose clients have included dissident artist Ai Weiwei, was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment for "fraud" by a Beijing court on Thursday, in a decision rights groups said was political persecution for handling sensitive cases.

"The diplomats are very concerned about the situation of Tohti in prison and also his family as well. They are mainly concerned about his wife and two young children in Beijing," Hu told RFA.

"I could only say that his health was still good, that he had recovered after his trial. He might have intentionally shown that he was well, so the family would not be worrie...nobody knows," Hu added.

Hu said his ability to update the diplomats on Tohti was limited "because there are strict visitation restrictions imposed."

"His family is not allowed to mention any matters, including to friends. They can't tell him anything about outside the world. What he thinks or his thoughts are not able to be relayed as well," added Hu.

Outspoken poet Wang Zang likened China's repression and censorship to the Berlin Wall.

"There are so many Chinese invited to the Germany embassy, it's quite encouraging. I appreciate that Germany continues to raise concerns the human rights with China, not like other countries," Wang told RFA.

"Taking down the 'Berlin Wall' in China requires the efforts of all," he said.

Reported by Su Yitong and Pan Jiaqing for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated by Vivian Kwan. Written in English by Paul Eckert.

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