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Rubio, Smith to Highlight Prisoners of Conscience Cases in Advance of President Xi Jinping Visit

Sep 15, 2015 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ-4) – the co-chairman and chairman, respectively, of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) – announced today the #FreeChinasHeroes initiative to highlight the cases of individuals who are presently imprisoned, detained or disappeared in China. These cases, among many others, deserve to be raised during the state visit of Chinese president and Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping later this month.
In its forthcoming Annual Report, scheduled for release in early October, the CECC documents the Chinese government and Party’s efforts to silence dissent, suppress human rights advocacy and control civil society — efforts that are broader in scope than any other period documented since the Commission started issuing Annual Reports in 2002. In highlighting various cases, the CECC intends to publicize the human toll of the Chinese government’s crackdown.
All of the cases featured in this campaign are also part of the Commission’s Political Prisoner Database (PPD), which presently contains records on more than 1,300 political and religious prisoners currently known or believed to be detained or imprisoned. The Commission treats a “political prisoner” as an individual detained for exercising his or her human rights under international law, such as peaceful assembly, freedom of religion, freedom of association and free expression, including the freedom to advocate peaceful social or political change and to criticize government policy or government officials. In most cases, prisoners in the PPD were detained or imprisoned for attempting to exercise rights guaranteed to them by China’s Constitution and law, or by international law, or both.
“As the Obama White House prepares to roll out the red carpet for President Xi, 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,” said Rubio. “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.”
“It has been another brutal year for China’s advocates of freedom and human rights,” Smith said. “The men and women we highlight are the human face of repression in China. We want to send the message that the imprisonment of rights advocates, lawyers, and religious people is unnecessary, unjust, and completely counterproductive. The hard won truth of history is that stability and prosperity can only be maintained through the advance of liberty, transparency, and the protection of fundamental human rights. China’s attention to this truth is a critical interest of U.S. foreign policy and stronger U.S.-China relations. These cases must be raised during the upcoming visit by President Xi and their freedom should be pursued as a prominent outcome. In highlighting these cases, we also want to send the message to China’s prisoners of conscience and their families, that the Congress has not forgotten about them and we will not be silent until they are released.”
The first two cases highlighted, Liu Xiaobo and Ilham Tohti, are available below.