BEIJING -- At this week’s U.S.-China meeting on human rights, U.S. officials said they brought up, by name, at least seven cases of imprisoned human-rights activists to Chinese authorities.
"In some cases, we were able to receive some information, but I would say overall it fell short of our expectations," said Uzra Zeya, U.S. acting assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.
The practice of raising specific cases of imprisoned political prisoners and human-rights activists has a long history in U.S.-China diplomatic exchanges. During the months leading up to such summits, human-rights activists, religious organizations and ethnic rights groups lobby the United States to have certain cases added to the list of names that will be brought up at the meeting.
In the past, such entreaties occasionally led to China releasing some individuals ahead of meetings such as presidential summits. Such results have waned in recent years, perhaps in part due to China’s growing global power. But with many of China’s leading human-rights activists still in prison and a recent spate of cases in which their families have been imprisoned as well, many rights groups here believe getting your name on that list is still an important step.
These are the seven who were mentioned by name at the human-rights dialogue this year, U.S. officials said at a news conference Friday,:
Xu Zhiyong is a human-rights activist who founded the Open Constitution Initiative in 2003. In July 2009, Xu Zhiyong was accused of tax evasion, and his organization was closed by the Chinese government. He launched the New Citizen Movement in 2010, calling for equal education rights and officials' asset disclosures. After three months of house arrest, he was detained by the police last month for “organizing a mob to disturb public order.”
Gao Zhisheng is a human-rights lawyer who helped state-persecuted groups such as Falun Gong practitioners. Gao was sentenced to three years imprisonment and five years suspension for "inciting subversion of state power" in December 2006. He has been missing since police took him from his home in Shaanxi Province on Feb. 4, 2009. He appeared in the public briefly in April 2010 but disappeared again soon after. The Chinese government confirmed that courts withdrew his probation in December 2011, and he is being jailed in Xinjiang, in the country's far west. An article written by him now circulating online describes being tortured by police.
Ni Yulan, a government petitioner, was detained by police for taking video of a site being demolished by authorities on April 27, 2002. Ni opened a petition against the government but was thrown into prison and is now physically disabled, allegedly after being beaten and tortured, according to human rights groups. Ni was taken away by authorities again after she protested the demolition of her own house. Her circumstances were reported widely by Chinese media after she was released, homeless, in April 2010. In April 2012, Ni was sentenced to two years and eight months imprisonment for “making trouble.” Her husband was jailed as well.
Liu Xiaobo became China's first Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2010. At the ceremony in Oslo, he was symbolized by an empty chair because he was serving an 11-year prison sentence for “subversion of state power” after helping to write and circulate a call for democratic and human rights reforms called Charter ’08. In recent years his wife, Liu Xia, has been placed under house arrest. Though wide international media attention has been drawn to Liu Xiaobo’s case, human-rights groups say his wife’s house arrest is, in some ways, an even more significant case because she was punished without any charges or conviction of a crime.
Dhondup Wangchen, a Tibetan documentary filmmaker, was arrested while working on a film about the attitudes of Tibetans in the lead-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He was sentenced to six years imprisonment on charges of subversion.
Gheyret Niyaz, also often spelled Hairat Niyaz, is a Uighur journalist who was arrested in the aftermath of the 2009 rioting in Xinjiang that killed more than 100 people. After conducting an interview with a Hong Kong news outlet, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for endangering state security.
Hada, a dissident from the the Inner Mongolian region, was jailed for many years for separatism, spying and supporting ethnic Mongolian groups that are considered subversive. He was released from jail in December 2010 but remains in detention. According to human-rights groups, his wife was also jailed for “engaging in illegal business.”