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As the Obama White House prepares to roll out the red carpet for Chinese president and Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping, I am joining with my fellow Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) Co-Chair, Representative Chris Smith, in the #FreeChina’sHeroes initiative to highlight the cases of individuals who are presently imprisoned, detained or disappeared in China.
We must not forget the men, women and juveniles who languish unjustly in dark prison cells, the family members who do not know the fate of their loved ones and the professionals who have disappeared for daring to do their job. These cases, among many others, deserve to be raised during Xi’s state visit later this month. These cases are not mere statistics, rather they are professors and pastors, writers and lawyers whose ‘offenses’ are varied but whose plight is shared. While recognizing the broad scope of U.S-China bilateral relations, it is simply unconscionable for President Xi to get a pass on human rights. We have an obligation to speak truth to power and demand their immediate and unconditional release.
Follow our advocacy campaign on Twitter using the hashtag #FreeChinasHeroes, and read more about the cases we will feature throughout the campaign below.
Liu Xiaobo: A 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and co-author of Charter 08 sentenced in 2009 to 11 years in prison for calling for political reform.
Ilham Tohti: A Uyghur economist and rights advocate serving a life sentence for his criticism of the government’s policies toward Uyghurs.
Chen Xi: A veteran of the 1989 democracy movement and a signatory of Charter 08 sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2011 for pro-democracy writings.
Lolo: A popular Tibetan singer sentenced to 6 years in prison in 2013 for recording an album calling for, among other things, the return of the Dalai Lama.
Wang Yu: A lawyer at Beijing Fengrui Law Firm whose disappearance marked the beginning of the July 2015 crackdown on rights lawyers throughout China.
Zhu Yufu: A democracy activist sentenced in 2012 to 7 years in prison for writings calling for public demonstrations, and in connection with the China Democracy Party.
Zhao Haitong: A democracy activist based in Xinjiang sentenced in 2014 to 14 years in prison after helping local Uyghurs lodge grievances against the government.
Gao Yu: A 71-year-old veteran journalist and dissident sentenced in 2015 to 7 years in prison after being forced to make an on air “confession,” and who is reportedly in deteriorating health.
Wangdu: A former Tibetan monk and HIV/AIDs awareness activist sentenced in 2008 to life in prison for communicating with Tibetan groups outside China.
Gulmira Imin: A Uyghur website administrator sentenced in 2010 to life in prison after allegedly helping to organize a Uyghur demonstration in Urumqi.
Bian Lichao: A teacher and Falun Gong practitioner sentenced in 2012 to 12 years in prison who has repeatedly been denied visitation and medical parole. His daughter was also sentenced to 3 ½ years for advocating to see him.
Su Zhimin: A Catholic Bishop in the underground church detained since 1997 and whose whereabouts are currently unknown.
Chen Wei: A democracy activist sentenced in 2011 to 9 years in prison for writings calling for freedom of speech and reform of the one-party system.
Liu Ping: A worker’s rights and anticorruption activist sentenced to 6 ½ years in prison in 2014; linked to the New Citizens’ Movement.
Zhang Kai: A Christian lawyer and advisor to churches in Wenzhou opposed the cross removal campaign and was detained just before meeting with U.S. Ambassador Saperstein.
Xu Zhiyong: An independent candidate and rights lawyer sentenced in 2014 to 4 years in prison because he was a co-founder of the New Citizens’ Movement and active in legal aid to petitioners and migrant workers.
Li Heping: A Christian human rights lawyer who has taken on civil rights cases including blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng disappeared from his Beijing home on July 10, 2015.
Pu Zhiqiang: A public interest lawyer and veteran of the 1989 democracy movement was formally indicted in May 2015 for online posts criticizing government’s ethnic policy.
Guo Feixiong: A close friend and associate of Gao Zhisheng is currently awaiting sentencing for his work as an activist and government transparency advocate.
Wang Xiaolu: A journalist for a leading financial magazine was accused of contributing to stock market chaos and detained in August 2015 following an on air “confession” televised on CCTV that same month.