The United States is calling on the Chinese communist regime to restore traveling privileges to a longtime political prisoner Wang Zhiwen so that he may leave China and visit his family in America.
“It is another unnecessary and vindictive action taken by the Chinese government,” Rep. Chris Smith, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Global Human Rights and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, said in an email.
Wang, 68, used to be a coordinator of Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline that involves slow exercises and moral teachings. But he was arrested in Beijing on July 20, 1999, after former Chinese Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin ordered a suppression of the practice.
Six months after his arrest, Wang appeared on state television with three other practitioners in a show trial. He was handed a 16-year prison sentence, and was abused and subjected to attempted “thought reform” in detention. Despite being released in 2014, the Chinese police kept Wang under 24-hour surveillance.
Earlier this year, Wang obtained a Chinese passport and a visa from American consular authorities. However, when he tried to leave China to visit the U.S. on Aug. 6 with his daughter and son-in-law, the Chinese airport authorities cancelled his passport.
Several U.S. officials have since condemned the Chinese authorities’ attempt to impede Wang Zhiwen from traveling to America.
Rep. Chris Smith wrote: “Zhiwen Wang was unjustly imprisoned for 15 years, the U.S. gave him a visa, he should be allowed to visit his daughter.”
Tina Mufford, a Senior Policy Analyst with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal agency, said that the Chinese regime’s “recent issuance then destruction of [Wang Zhiwen’s] passport is both tragic and unacceptable.”
“After wrongful imprisonment and house arrest, Zhiwen deserves to be with his family, and if that means traveling outside of China, then he should be afforded every opportunity to do so. It is within the Chinese government’s power to reunite Zhiwen with his family by swiftly issuing him another passport, and we strongly urge it to do so immediately,” Mufford added in a written statement.
A spokesperson with the U.S. State Department said in an email: “We are concerned by reports that Chinese authorities cancelled the passport of Wang Zhiwen, a Falun Gong practitioner released from prison in 2014. We call on the Chinese government to allow him to travel unimpeded and reunite with his family. We continue to urge China to protect religious freedom for all citizens, including those belonging to ethnic and religious minorities and those who worship outside official state-sanctioned institutions.”
Jeff Nenarella, Wang’s son-in-law, told Epoch Times recently that the cancellation of Wang’s passport could be an initiative meant to subvert central edicts. Months after the national authorities issued a passport to Wang, local police showed up at his door, puzzled at how he had obtained the travel document, according to Nenarella.
While there has been some indication this year that the Chinese communist regime under Xi Jinping could eventually shift its stance on Falun Gong, there are no obvious signs that the persecution is abating in mainland China.
At a protest rally for Wang Zhiwen outside the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in San Francisco on Aug. 10, Falun Gong practitioner Yao Yuanying told Epoch Times that she is facing a similar situation as Danielle Wang, the daughter of Wang Zhiwen.
“My parents were arrested by local security officers in China 8 months ago,” said Yao. “I just learned yesterday that my parents will be sentenced in an illegal trial scheduled for the 23rd of this month.”
With reporting by Sherry Dong and Li Linzhao.