30 prominent NGOs drafted and signed an open letter to President Obama yesterday asking the U.S. head of state to demand the immediate and unconditional release of what has now been termed the “China 16″—a group of 16 prisoners of conscience, arbitrarily detained by the Chinese state for the expression of rights and freedoms guaranteed by international law. In a show of support, Congressmen Frank Wolf, James McGovern, and Chris Smith and Congresswoman Karen Bass likewise urged President Obama to “raise the cases of the ‘China 16’ by name during your upcoming bilateral summit with President Xi Jinping of China, and to call for their immediate and unconditional release” in their own open letter, attached to that of the NGOs’. Advocates across the world hope the upcoming bilateral summit between the two nations will to promote Chinese respect of religious freedom and spur the rapid implementation of reforms by the Jinping Administration.
The biographies of the “China 16” are available here
The full text of the coalition’s letter to President Obama is available here
The full text of the Congressmen and Congresswoman’s letter to President Obama is available here
06/06/2013 China (China Aid News) – A widely diverse group of 30 NGOs today jointly called on President Obama to raise by name the cases of 16 Chinese prisoners of conscience and to press for their release when he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday.
“By raising the cases of these sixteen – a number we have chosen because the number eight represents good luck in Chinese culture – we believe that you will at least double their chances for freedom, and will greatly enhance the prospects for freedom of similarly situated prisoners of conscience,” the coalition of major non-governmental organizations and two law firms said in a June 5 letter to the president.
Dubbed the “China 16” by the NGO coalition, the prisoners of conscience represent “the diversity of groups in China who have been targeted for persecution by their own government: human rights attorneys, pro-democracy activists, Tibetans, Christians, Uyghurs, Falun Gong practitioners, and even a Nobel Peace Prize laureate” but share one common element: “In all cases, their imprisonment has been ordered because they are perceived to challenge the Chinese government’s tight grip on power,” the letter said.
ChinaAid and blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng played an important role in bringing together this coalition. The initiative is modeled after the U.S. intervention on behalf of the Siberian 7 during the Cold War, when seven Siberian Pentecostals who were barred from leaving the Soviet Union took refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow
“The China 16 represent the tip of the iceberg of the thousands of peaceful advocates for freedom who are imprisoned, tortured and treated as criminals for exercising basic rights guaranteed by China’s Constitution and international human rights law,” said ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu, who himself was jailed in Beijing in 1996 for his leadership role in the house church movement.
“President Obama should press President Xi Jinping for the freedom of the China 16. President Xi has emphasized China’s need to respect the rule of law, but there is no law as long as prisoners of conscience suffer in Chinese gulags.”