BEIJING, Nov. 18 /Christian Newswire/ — At 10:13 AM (Beijing time), nearly 200 nervous-looking Public Security officials seized two Chinese human rights lawyers outside the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, who were trying to establish a meeting with President Obama before the end of his visit to China. Five human rights lawyers in total contacted the U.S. Embassy on Wednesday morning, but were unable to set up a meeting, due to the President’s busy, preset schedule.
The lawyers were determined to answer the general invitation reported by U.S. media, indicating President Obama would be interested and willing to meet with fellow human rights lawyers while in Beijing. Shortly after receiving a call from the U.S. Embassy announcing they would not be able to meet, the 200-strong state police guard seized the two lawyers and interrogated them in the neighboring hotel for over an hour. The lawyers were strictly warned, “You are not allowed to meet with President Obama. We will hold you until he leaves Beijing.” The police then escorted the two lawyers to their homes, where they were to be held under constant surveillance by police guards until Obama left this afternoon.
Two of the five lawyers outside the embassy were among six Chinese legal defenders who recently returned to China after visiting the United States to raise awareness of the unjust treatment of human rights lawyers. During their visit, they spoke with members of Congress and the Department of State, testified in a hearing before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (10/29), and presented a panel discussion with law students at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA. One week later, thirty U.S. Representatives signed a bipartisan letter to President Obama on November 10th, calling for him to speak out on human rights and religious freedom while in China. The first issue addressed in the list of recommended items was the treatment of human rights lawyers. Click here to view the Congressional Letter to President Obama, issued November 10, 2009.
The six Chinese legal defenders returned home this week and last to find their families had been placed under close surveillance by local PSB; many chose not to return home for the duration of President Obama’s visit for the safety of their families. This harassment follows a warning issued by Congressman Frank Wolf at the hearing, his, personal expression of concern for their safety upon their return to China.
During their visit, Chinese legal defenders repeatedly recommended that American leaders encourage President Obama to meet with his fellow lawyers in China, and for U.S. Embassy officials in Beijing to meet with human rights lawyers more frequently. After today’s events, a US Embassy officer informed ChinaAid President Bob Fu that he regretted the President’s inability to meet earlier this morning, and expressed the Embassy’s desire to invite the lawyers to a meeting in the near future.
Despite the negative implications of Chinese state police and media stifling the voice of human rights defenders, ChinaAid President Bob Fu is hopeful. “By bluntly declining to meet with these attorneys who are willing to take this risk and waiting for the whole night for this meeting to happen, it sends a regrettably chilling signal… But we look forward to the U.S. Embassy keeping their word with future meetings.”
For video coverage of the hearing and more details, view the full press release at www.ChinaAid.org.
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