WASHINGTON—For every prisoner of conscience tortured and abused in communist China, there are family and friends who are also being persecuted. Recently, five young women testified before a congressional subcommittee about the agony of being separated from their fathers, currently incarcerated and often tortured for their beliefs and activism.
“When China bullies, incarcerates, tortures—and even executes—a prisoner of conscience, their entire family and friends suffer an excruciating sense of loss, bewilderment, emotional pain, and agony,” said Chairman Chris Smith (R-N.J.).
Smith observed that frequently members of the family are subjected to “interrogation, mistreatment, and house arrest” as a way to further the persecution of the prisoner.
A child or a wife or husband lives a nightmare wondering, “What terrible abuse awaits their dad or mom or brother or sister or child,” said Smith.
‘Help Free Our Fathers’
Cege ‘Grace’ Gao
Gege “Grace” Gao, daughter of renowned human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng, said that she last saw her father over five years ago. She described the horrendous insults the Communist Party imposed on herself, her brother, and their mother. She testified that her younger brother recently said he could no longer remember their father’s face and figure.
Ms. Gao said that soon after the family arrived in the United States, her worries about her father resulted in a nervous breakdown, and she had to be hospitalized.
“All my relatives, such as my grandma, grandpa, three aunts, and his brothers and sisters, were blacklisted. They were deprived the basic rights of even getting a citizen passport. Eight years passed, the persecution on my father is not only still continuing but also extends to all of our family members,” said Gao.
The U.S. Congress and State Department have made numerous requests to the Chinese regime for the release of Gao Zhisheng, but the regime has ignored them.
“I wish that President Obama and Vice President Biden could mention my father’s name Gao Zhisheng on public occasions and urge the immediate release of my father without conditions,” she said.
Danielle Wang is the oldest of the five daughters who testified. Her father, Wang Zhiwen, was a railway engineer and a volunteer contact person for the traditional spiritual practice of Falun Dafa (also called Falun Gong) in Beijing before he was seized at home on the night of July 20, 1999. On that day the Chinese Communist Party launched a brutal persecution against the peaceful spiritual practice. In a staged, nationally televised “trial,” Mr. Wang was sentenced to 16 years.
“At my wedding, we placed a single rose on his chair to symbolize his presence and celebrate his place in my life. I continue to keep that rose safe and present until the day we meet again and I can hand it to him and tell him the story of how he has always been with me,” Ms. Wang said.
Danielle Wang cried throughout her testimony, but particularly when she held up a small tree branch that her father had polished in prison. “15 years, this is the only thing I got from him,” she said. The gift arrived two months ago, sent by a relative who had been able to visit her father in prison.
Wang said during her father’s imprisonment, both of his collarbones had been smashed, his teeth pulled out, and police had pierced under the fingernails with sharp bamboo sticks.
Lisa Peng is a high school student in Ohio. She’s the daughter of Peng Ming, founder of the China Development Federation and author of “The Fourth Landmark.” Mr. Peng became a United Nations refugee in the United States in 2001, but soon after, he was abducted in Thailand by Chinese secret agents, taken to China, and sentenced to life on false charges of organizing and leading a terrorist organization.
Peng said, “Despite nearly 10 years in prison suffering heart attacks, arthritis, malnutrition, and kidney stones with no medical care, my father still persists and remains hopeful.” She would like her father to be given proper medical attention and visitation rights, and to ultimately be released.
Ti-Anna Wang, daughter of Wang Bingzhang, who founded the overseas Chinese democracy movement, was captured in Vietnam in 2002. Mr. Wang is a U.S. permanent resident abducted and taken to China for a sham trial on charges of “espionage” and “terrorism.” He’s currently serving a life sentence in prison.
Wang testified: “While [my father] languishes in prison, I have spent the past decade campaigning for his release by telling his story on public platforms and lobbying the American and Canadian governments for assistance. As a result, the Chinese government apparently decided that I, too, needed to be punished. Since I began speaking in public, the Chinese [regime] has refused to issue me a visa. It’s now been five years since I’ve been able to visit my father.”
Bridgette Chen’s father is Liu Xianbin, a prominent political dissident and organizer of the China Democracy Party. Mr. Liu was first jailed as a university student for his participation in the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement. He was sentenced to 10 years in 2011, and has served a total of over 15 years in prison since 1991.
Chen quoted from a letter she received from her father: “The absence of me has made this family incomplete, and it must have been difficult for both you and your mom when I’m not by your side. So I can only express my love through these letters so that you would still feel my love for you even when I’m not here with you.”
Chen asked the U.S. government, Vice President Joe Biden, and President Barack Obama to intervene and “help free our fathers.”
All five witnesses expressed the wish for a meeting in the Oval Office with the president to discuss their fathers and the need to reunite their families.
Congress Members Moved
The hearing, held before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Dec. 5, deeply moved the congressmen attending.
Smith had to pause for seconds before he could continue. He pledged that the human rights committee will doggedly work to reach the hearts and minds of government officials, “so this is not talking point on page 5, if it is that at all.”
Smith also urged the press to amplify in a serious and sustained way the plight of these fathers.
Pointing at the daughters, he said, “You’re not the exceptions; you’re the pattern, you’re the norm in China today.”
Smith said that these extraordinary agonies need to be heard by more people and delivered to the members of the U.N. Human Rights Council, and the heads of the U.N. delegations. He commended the five young women, “Americans should see this is the pride of China sitting here.”
Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) commended the women for living a very profound and just life, for their fathers and for those like them.
Teary-eyed, Congressman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) addressed the daughters and reassured them that “even though miles and time may separate you, there is nothing, nothing that will ever separate you from your father’s love.” He said he was profoundly touched by their testimony.
Meadows made a personal commitment to the daughters that “as discussions go on with those in official positions in China that not a single one of those conversations or negotiations will happen without the faces of each of you being at the forefront of our mind.”
Smith said that Meadows is the congressional delegate to the United Nations and will relate their testimony to officials there.
Speaking of China’s many prisoners of conscience and their families, Smith said, “The time has come for a more serious and sustained defense of these heroic individuals and their noble causes.”
Smith said the Communist regime is in the business of “breaking minds, bodies, and hearts. The repression is systematic, pervasive, unrelenting, and unnecessary.”