Skip to content Skip to navigation

HRIC in Action: April-May 2009

June 4, 2009
Reaching Broader Audiences

Principia College Public Affairs Conference 2009: “China Rising: Politics, Economics, Resources and Culture” | Elsah, IL (April 2-4)
Executive Director Sharon Hom participated as a panelist at Principia College’s 60th Annual Public Affairs Conference, speaking on the topic of the current human rights situation in China. Keynote speakers included Jonathan Spence, Sterling Professor of History at Yale University; Minxin Pei, senior associate in the China Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Cheng Li, senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center and Professor of Government at Hamilton College; and David Lampton, former president of the National Committee on United States-China Relations and current director of the China Studies Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

Advancing Corporate Social Responsibility

Meeting of the Global Network Initiative | New York City (May 6)
HRIC participated in a group meeting of the Global Network Initiative. More information—including the core documents detailing the Initiative’s objectives and the key commitments of the participants—can be found at

HRIC Press Work

Press Releases, Statements, Case Updates: Spring 2009

April 6, 2009: Retired Professor Attacked after Honoring Memory of Late Party Secretary Zhao Ziyang
On April 4, 2009, Sun Wenguang (孙文广), 75, retired professor of Shandong University, was brutally beaten by five unidentified men as he returned from paying respects to the memory of the late Zhao Ziyang, and of Zhang Zhixin, a dissident killed during the Cultural Revolution.

April 15, 2009: Shanghai Rights Defender Harassed on Heels of National Human Rights Action Plan Release
HRIC reported that Zheng Enchong (郑恩宠), a Shanghai-based rights defense lawyer, was detained by the police for ten hours on April 15, 2009. The detention was believed to be because of an interview he gave with Voice of America regarding corruption of Shanghai housing officials.

April 17, 2009: Pursuant to New Court Ruling, Shenzhen Rights Defense Lawyer Liu Yao Released after More than 400 Days in Detention
Liu Yao (刘尧), a prominent Shenzhen rights defense lawyer, was released after a fourth trial, on April 10, in which he challenged his conviction of “intentional destruction of properties.” Liu had been sentenced after he accompanied villagers to a worksite to try to stop construction on land the government had expropriated.

April 23, 2009: Wife of Abducted Rights Defense Lawyer Gao Zhisheng Requests Urgent Help from U.S. Congress in Open Letter
HRIC published an open letter to the to the U.S. Congress by Geng He (耿和), wife of Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), the prominent Chinese rights defense lawyer who has been missing since early February 2009. In it, she appeals for help to put pressure on the Chinese government to disclose Gao’s whereabouts.

May 13, 2009: Beijing Lawyers Beaten for Representing Falun Gong Case
Beijing rights defense lawyers Zhang Kai (张凯) and Li Chunfu (李春富) were violently beaten at their client’s home in Chongqing by local police, brought to the local police station for interrogation, and then locked up in an iron cage and slapped in the face.

Advocacy through the Media

HRIC arranged and assisted with interpretation for a New York Times interview with Geng He, wife of missing rights defense lawyer Gao Zhisheng, about the family’s life in China and escape to the United States. Following is an excerpt from the resulting article:

“The journey was fraught with danger and paranoid moments. . . . The most trying moment, Ms. Geng said, came when, for security reasons, the guides separated her from her son for several hours. Their motorcycles could not make it up a slippery hill, Ms. Geng said, and she got into an argument with her daughter. . . . ‘She said, “I’ll go to jail, I don’t care! I can’t do this anymore,”’ Ms. Geng recalled, continuing, ‘I begged her not to give up, because we had to be reunited with Tianyu. I was worried that I would be separated from my child forever.’”

—David Chen, “How the Family of a Dissident Fled China,”
New York Times, May 9, 2009.

HRIC Speaks

On the disappearance of rights defense lawyer Gao Zhisheng

“The wife of prominent Chinese lawyer and activist Gao Zhisheng has appealed to the U.S. Congress to pressure China to disclose her husband’s whereabouts since his disappearance in February.

“Gao’s wife, Geng He, made the appeal in a letter released late Thursday by the New York-based advocacy group Human Rights in China. Geng and her two children escaped from China to Thailand in January and now live in the United States, where they were accepted as refugees.”

“Wife of Chinese Dissident Appeals to US Congress,”
Associated Press, April 24, 2009.

“Chinese rights defense lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s wife, Geng He, asked the U.S. Congress to exert pressure on the Beijing government to disclose where Gao Zhisheng is being detained. Geng’s open letter, released yesterday by Human Rights in China, said ‘on February 4, my husband disappeared again from his hometown in Shaanxi and has not been heard from since. I have no doubt that his kidnapping was the Chinese government’s retaliation for our escape. In view of his horrific experiences in the past, I’m extremely worried about my husband’s safety.’”

“Open Letter by Gao Zhisheng’s Wife to U.S. Congress,”
Asia News, April 24, 2009.
(Unofficial English translation by Human Rights in China.)

 “In the 69 days since he disappeared, rights activists, international lawyers, and the Canadian government, have all expressed concerns for his safety.

“They want assurances that Gao is safe and still alive.

“Their concerns are based on serious and credible allegations that Gao was brutally tortured by police in September 2007. A graphic account of that torture, written by Gao himself, was released in February by the New York-based non-governmental organization, Human Rights in China.”

—Bill Schiller, “Fears Grow over Chinese Lawyer’s Disappearance,”
The Toronto Star, April 13, 2009.

On the beating of retired professor Sun Wenguang

“According to human rights groups, Sun was detained and imprisoned many times in the 1960s through the 1980s for expressing dissenting views such as criticizing Mao Zedong, founder of Communist China.

“Sun said he had more recent run-ins with authorities because he gave speeches and posted articles about Zhao.

“‘This deplorable act, committed in broad daylight and clear view of the police . . . calls into serious question officials’ professed commitment to building a society that puts people first,’ said Sharon Hom, executive director of the New York-based advocacy group Human Rights in China.”

—Audra Ang, “Chinese Man Beaten while Honoring Ousted Leader,”
Associated Press, April 7, 2009.

On opportunities for reform in China

Host Steve Paikin [reading email]: “If someday the world could be convinced to not be so willfully blind to the atrocities of the Chinese system, could it bring the Chinese economy and government to the brink of capitulation for change, or has China now become so powerful that nothing and no one can stop it from becoming the most powerful economic force on the planet?”

Sharon Hom: “First of all, I think that China’s rise to economic power—the causes and the costs of China’s competitiveness—is a huge environmental crisis. The second thing is that it’s not the international community and the world that’s going to bring China further along the path of democracy. I think we should hedge our bets here. It’s really going to be the Chinese writers, journalists, activists, lawyers, and ordinary petitioners—it’s going to be the 1.3 billion people [of China] that are going to move China forward.”

“Your Agenda: Political Change in China?”
TVOntario’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin, March 12, 2009.

Jonathan Spence Reviews Gao Wenqian’s Zhou Enlai: The Last Perfect Revolutionary in New York Review of Books

In Zhou Enlai, Gao Wenqian, HRIC Senior Policy Advisor, focuses on the decade before Zhou’s death in 1976, revealing his deft political skills and willingness to acquiesce to Mao Zedong, even when they fanned the flames of violence during the Cultural Revolution. First published in Chinese in Hong Kong in 2003—and immediately banned in the mainland—the book was published in English in the U.S. in 2008.

Jonathan Spence, Chinese history scholar and Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University, said that the book offers readers “a clearer understanding of Mao and the Chinese Revolution.” Spence provides examples of how Gao’s qualifications—as a research scholar within the Communist Party before moving to the United States—offer readers a direct route into the official archives, illuminating both a key revolutionary and the machinations of Mao’s inner sanctum.

—Jonathan Spence, “The Mystery of Zhou Enlai,”
The New York Review of Books, May 28, 2009.

“Getting Beyond Business as Usual for U.S.-China Human Rights Policy” by Sharon Hom, HRIC Executive Director, in Harvard Asia Pacific Review

Ms. Hom’s essay, in the form of an open letter to President Barack Obama, warns the new administration of strategic traps and myths that constrain and obfuscate U.S.-China relations. In an effort to make China a responsible stakeholder in the international system, the U.S. has adhered to a 35-year-old engagement policy. Meanwhile, Ms. Hom argues, China has developed a more sophisticated toolkit and lined up dubious allies that work to limit substantive rights, manipulate procedural negotiations, and evade legitimate challenges. Noting that President Obama spoke out on Taiwan and Tibet during the campaign, Ms. Hom calls on him to address the third unmentionable—the June Fourth crackdown.

—Sharon K. Hom, “Getting Beyond Business As Usual for U.S.-China Human Rights Policy,” Harvard Asia Pacific Review, May 4, 2009.

HRIC Organizational Notes

HRIC welcomed one new staff member to the New York office. Joey Han-Yu Lee, New York University School of Law 2009 Robert L. Bernstein Fellow in International Human Rights, previously served as a Law Intern with HRIC. He holds an LL.M. in International Legal Studies from New York University, with a focus on human rights and corporate accountability. Prior to pursuing his LL.M. degree, he practiced law as an associate at Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP in its Boston office. Joey earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Queen’s University and his J.D. from Boston University.