By BosNewsLife Asia Service
BEIJING/WASHINGTON (BosNewsLife)– A petition calling for the release of a prominent Christian human rights lawyer, which was signed by some 100,000 people around the world, has been delivered to the Chinese embassy in Washington and the U.S. State Department, organizers said Friday, July 17.
“The signatures represent concerned citizens in the U.S. and around the world who are asking for the immediate release of Gao Zhisheng, a Christian human rights attorney who was kidnapped by Chinese officials on February 4,” said advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA).
Gao Zhisheng has defended “persecuted Christians” and others who CAA said “have been abused by the Chinese government for their beliefs.” CAA quoted sources inside China as saying that Gao is undergoing severe torture.
China’s embassy in Washington has denied wrongdoing. In a recent statement it reportedly said that Gao “received a three-year sentence, with five-years probation, and one-year deprivation of political rights on December 26, 2006 for violation of the Criminal Law.”
The embassy said he is currently serving probation and stressed that, “The public security authority has not taken any mandatory measure against him.”
However Chinese Christians say the lawyer’s whereabouts are unknown and describe the statement as a “cover-up.” Besides Zhisheng, at least 18 lawyers have not been permitted to renew their licenses, apparently because of their involvement in religious rights issues, CAA said.
“Some have been arrested, beaten and tortured for their normal legal defense work. Gao, along with many of the other attorneys targeted by the government, have been working with ChinaAid’s legal defense efforts for religious freedom cases.”
Following the petition presented July 9 and July 10, several Congressional leaders, including Congressman James McGovern, agreed to send a letter to Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong inquiring about Gao Zhisheng’s current whereabouts and condition, CAA added.
CAA said one of its lawyers delivered the petition for Gao’s release to the Chinese embassy last week, but when Chinese embassy staff saw the petition, he was told to leave. He left the petition at the front door, CAA added.
Chinese officials have reportedly expressed concerns about the spread of Christianity in the Communist-run nation.