Smith in China on Major Human Rights Appeal in Run-up to Olympics
Presents Chinese Government with List of 734 political prisoners
"With just weeks to go to the Olympics, we join our voice to those of millions of Chinese and appeal to the Chinese Government to free its prisoners of conscience, stop the harassment and arrests of dissidents and respect fundamental human rights," said US Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) from Beijing as he wrapped up a four-day human rights mission to China.
Smith, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a leading human rights advocate in Congress, said he and colleague Congressman Frank Wolf (VA-10) went to China to bring attention to the most recent government crackdown and to work for its reversal as the world starts to focus more on China and the Olympics.
Smith and Wolf presented Chinese government officials with a list of 734 political prisoners who languish in jail because they promoted democracy, labor rights, religious freedom or other human rights.
"The crackdown on political dissidents and religious believers and the crushing of cyber dissidents is now going full throttle and shows no signs of abating," Smith said.
"Brave and noble Chinese men and women are today suffering jail and torture simply because they sought to exercise their fundamental freedoms guaranteed not only by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but by the Chinese Constitution itself."
Smith recalled how Liu Jingmin, vice president of the Beijing Olympic bid committee, famously asserted that allowing Beijing to host the games would "help the development of human rights." Smith said that argument appeared plausible at the time but has proven "numbingly disappointing."
"Tragically, the Olympics has triggered a massive crackdown designed to silence and put beyond reach all those whose views differ from the official harmonious' government line," he said.
The list of dissidents was presented to Ambassador Li Zhaoxing, Chairman of the NPC's Foreign Affairs Committee. "Our exchange was candid and frank, and focused primarily on human rights, including the genocide in Darfur. We presented him with a list of 734 political prisoners, and respectfully appealed to him and his government to work for their release. Darfur was emphasized in the talks, given China's influence and collaboration with the Sudanese Government. China is one of Sudan's largest arms suppliers, a source of weapons used to attack civilians in Darfur," Smith said.
Smith reported that the "crackdown" and systematic harassment was even evident in his own schedule of events in China. "A meeting we had scheduled for Sunday night with three human rights lawyers never occurred as the three lawyers were threatened and either taken away or placed under house arrest by the police," he said. "Similarly, after we met with senior house church pastor, Zhang Mingxuan, he too was placed under house arrest.
"The bravery of these people and the harassment they endure as they press for democracy is truly inspiring," Smith added.
Smith said that it's shockingbut not necessarily surprisingthat the three human rights advocates were barred from meeting him on Sunday in light of the new crackdown and the way the government has treated other human rights activists.
"Last week, on behalf of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), I had the privilege of announcing NED's coveted Democracy Award to Teng Biao and Chen Guangcheng, both of whom had to receive the award in absentia. Teng remains under house arrest and we call on the government to release him and the others. Chen, a blind activist, is in prison in Linyi for bringing a class-action lawsuit against the government on behalf of several women who had been severely and irreparably harmed by the one-child-per-couple policy which relies on forced abortion, ruinous fines and other forms of coercion to achieve its goals," he said.
Smith has noted in the past that the one-child-per-couple policy is a human rights abuse that not only kills children and abuses women, but is also becoming an increasing factor in the rise in human trafficking of North Korean women into China, where they are forced into prostitution, marriage or forced labor.
Smith expressed the hope that his trip would intensify media attention on the suffering of human rights advocates and other victims of the abuses of the Chinese Government, and galvanize international pressure on the Government to adhere to international human rights standards.