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ICC Note: The story of this brave Christian speaks for itself, and demonstrates what can happen when a Chinese citizen, a judge in this case, decides to follow the dictates of his heart, rather than the dictates of the government.

By Ava Collins

09/23/2015 China (China Aid)

Li Jianfeng, a former Senior Judge in China, has been granted political asylum in Canada in a coordinated effort by led by China Aid and will arrive in Vancouver this evening. Li was imprisoned for more than a decade after the Tiananmen Square Massacre for using his position to aid vulnerable groups and endured beatings and hard labor during that time.

Li was arrested in February 2002 in China’s coastal Fujian province and was convicted two years later of “illegal weapon possession” and “subverting state power.” Li was the first person in mainland China to be convicted of “subverting state power,” a serious charge that replaced “counter-revolution” after the massacre at Tiananmen Square.

Before his conviction, Li used his position as a judge in the Fujian Intermediate People’s Court to improve the condition of his community, ruling in nearly 100 cases and directly assisting 431 people. Secretly, he began organizations called “labor alliances,” support networks of business owners, police, judges and human rights defenders to aid socially vulnerable groups and human rights activists through both public and semi-public methods. He also covertly published a book titled “Labor Alliance,” calling on people to defend themselves through civil disobedience.

While helping relocate approximately 100 workers from a film company in Ningde, Fujian, Li’s efforts interfered with the off-the-books, family interests of Jing Fusheng, a high-ranking official. In retaliation, Jing pushed for public security to arrest Li without any valid evidence. Two years after being detained, Li was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

In an interview with China Aid, Li said, “I did not have any political ambitions. I simply wanted to be a good Christian and a conscientious citizen, but even the most basic of these actions in China come at the expense of long-term imprisonment.”

Li’s years in incarceration were a brutal experience, which often included beatings, denial of medical treatment and intense labor. The day of his arrival, he and seven others were beaten by prison authorities, and the injuries inflicted were severe enough to put Li into a coma.

Throughout his time in prison, Li said he was often brought to the brink of death. In 2012, he witnessed a fellow prisoner, Huang Chuanchan, be beaten to death by prison guards for protecting a Catholic bible. Despite the risks, Li created a group of imprisoned Christians, five Catholics and Protestants, who converted more than 40 other prisoners.

After serving 11 years of his original sentence of 16, Li was released in April 2013. When he returned to the outside world, he found he had no family, no money, no home, and his health was ailing from mistreatment. China Aid led a group of international organizations to bring Li to Bangkok and help him apply for political asylum from the U.N. Refugee Agency.

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