By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife with BosNewsLife Asia Service
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)– China’s Christian “prisoner-of-conscience” Peng Ming spent another day behind bars Tuesday, July 2, despite mounting concerns about his health after nine tortuous years in captivity, his Chinese friend and former house church pastor told BosNewsLife.
“Although Peng, a Christian, remains committed to regular prayer and also writes and exercises to stay healthy, he has developed severe heart disease as well as some other illnesses because of torture,” said Bob Fu, who fled China and now leads U.S. based advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA).
“His health is getting worse and worse” while “manuscripts of several books that he has written have been confiscated,” Fu explained.
He claimed Chinese Communist authorities deprived Peng “of his basic rights to see doctors and hire lawyers.” Adding to Peng’s difficulties is news that his relatives living overseas, including his parents, sister and children, tried to apply for visas to visit him in prison but “were rejected or forced back when transferring planes in Shanghai,” Fu explained.
Fu told BosNewsLife that he and Peng’s family members were “making the rounds [in Washington]” in recent days to draw attention to his “illegal conviction and failing health” behind bars.
“Given the current urgent situation that Peng is in, [CAA] brought Peng’s ex-wife, Nie Ying, and his 16-year-old daughter, Peng Jiayin, to Washington D.C. to seek help from the U.S. Congress, international media and international human rights organizations,” he added.
“Peng Ming’s family has been outspoken about his urgent situation in prison and expressed their hope that Peng would be allowed to get needed medical treatment as soon as possible to control his worsening heart disease.”
He said Peng is prosecuted for his commitment “to end one-party dictatorship in China and to realize free and democratic universal suffrage.” As part of these efforts, Peng founded the China Development Federation and later, in the United States, the China Federalist Party, prompting an apparently angry reaction from China’s Communist government.
“Like Wang Bingzhang, the prominent Christian dissident, Peng Ming was secretly lured by special agents of the Chinese Communist government to Myanmar”, also known as Burma, “where he was kidnapped on May 28, 2004 and transferred to China,” Fu said.
On October 12, 2005 a “Chinese Communist court” in Wuhan, Hubei province convicted Peng of “forming and leading a terrorist organization” and sentenced him to life imprisonment, with deprivation of his political rights for life, Fu recalled.
THROWN IN PRISON
After he was sentenced, Peng was immediately thrown into Han Yang Prison in Hubei to serve his sentence, trial observers said. In 2011, he was reportedly transferred to Xian Ning, where he remains today.
“Peng’s sentence of life imprisonment has not been changed to a fixed-term imprisonment, and to date he has already been in prison for nine years,” explained Fu, who remains in close contact with his family.
There was no immediate comment from Chinese authorities. However Beijing has often denied human rights abuses saying those prosecuted violate Chinese laws or belong to sects operating outside the country’s official churches or other dangerous organizations.
Fu, who was a leader of the eventually crushed student democracy movement at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, argues that Peng’s political views “fall entirely within the exercise of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.” Additionally, Fu noted that Peng’s activities were outside Chinese territory “with no resulting consequences occurring within China’s borders.”
The United Nation Working Group on Arbitrary Detention agrees. It has passed a special resolution saying Peng’s detention and sentence are “politically-motivated and constitutes arbitrary detention” and demanded that the Chinese government “correct this error” in applying the law.
Experts argue that Peng’s conviction does not fall under Chinese Criminal Law as Peng was recognized by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as an “international refugee” who was resettled in the United States.
Fu said that “the Chinese Communists have no right to sentence Peng to life for ‘forming and leading a terrorist organization’ as his viewpoints or actions fall not within the scope of Chinese criminal law.”
Besides Peng, CAA has expressed concern about other long-time political prisoners such as Christian Wang Bingzhang, who activists said was sentenced to life imprisonment for his pro-democracy activities.
Among others are lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who CAA said “has been brutally persecuted” for advocating freedom of religion of unofficial house churches with at least 80 million followers and Falun Gong sect practitioners.
Additionally Alimujiang Yimiti, an Uyghur house church clergyman, “was sentenced to 15 years in prison by Xinjiang authorities for believing in Christianity” while “Guo Quan was sentenced to a 10-year prison term by Chinese Communists for independently founding a political party,” Fu said.
PUNISHED FOR POEM
He also mentioned Zhu Yufu, who “was sentenced for the third time to seven year’s imprisonment for writing a poem and Liu Xiaobo, one of the authors of Charter 08,” a manifesto for political change in China, “who is serving an 11-year sentence for peacefully offering advice.”
Fu said, “It is easy to see that when the Chinese Communist authorities use terrorist methods against innocent political prisoners of conscience like Wang Bingzhang and Peng Ming, their true motive is to let them die eventually in prison.”
He explained that CAA has launched a new campaign for the early release of prisoners of conscience sentenced and imprisoned by the Chinese Communists “for religious reasons or for exercising their freedom of speech and freedom” of assembly.
“However, with the worsening of human rights status in China, these efforts have yielded few results” he acknowledged as “for instance Wang Bingzhang, who like Peng Ming, was committed to the democratization of China, was kidnapped and sentenced to life in prison by the Chinese Communists.”
China has come under pressure from the United States and the European Union to accompany economic reforms with more religious and political freedom.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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