Wife of Chinese Dissident Pulls out of Meeting with Top State Official

Activists raise concerns about the Communist Party’s human rights abuses as the Chinese president prepares to visit Washington

Geng He in front of poster of her husband, Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng / AP
September 23, 2015

The wife of a prominent Chinese human rights lawyer has cancelled plans to meet with a top State Department official as concerns continue to be raised about Chinese President Xi Jinping’s upcoming visit to Washington.

The website reports that Tony Blinken, deputy secretary of state, is scheduled to privately meet with families of Chinese political prisoners on Wednesday. President Obama will host Xi for an official state visit on Friday, when the Chinese Communist Party’s human rights abuses is expected to be one topic of contention between the two.

According to a message posted on the website, Gao Zhisheng, a lawyer who has been repeatedly detained by authorities and remains under house arrest in China, requested that his wife, Geng He, not attend the meeting with Blinken. Geng, who lives with their children in San Francisco after she received political asylum from the United States, said on Twitter that she cancelled her trip to Washington after reading Gao’s plea.

"Even if it was an open meeting with the president, it’s not what we need right now—how much less a private meeting with his subordinate," Gao said in his message to his wife. "Why go about it so secretly? What is there to be afraid of? Who’s the one afraid? Who doesn’t want to be seen in the light of day holding the meeting?"

"Secondly, while I don’t harbor any blame for any similar past meetings, at this point, it won’t help," he continued. "In the future there shouldn’t be similar situations, especially at a time like now, when [Xi Jinping] is rubbing shoulders and celebrating with American politicians."

A State Department spokeswoman declined to comment about the reported meeting between Blinken and families of Chinese dissidents.

Beginning in 2005, Gao was reportedly detained and tortured by Chinese authorities for a decade after he represented clients in politically sensitive cases, including rights activists and practitioners of the banned Falun Gong religion. After his release from prison last August, he was eventually placed under house arrest in a remote area of Xinjiang, the western region of China. He continues to be denied medical treatment for serious ailments and is barred from leaving the country to join his family in the United States.

Top Obama administration officials have previously been criticized for not raising Gao’s case publicly with their Chinese counterparts.

In his letter, Gao assailed the "American political class" that has "muddied itself by getting so close to the sinister Communist Party."

"When these politicians raise their glasses together, justice, human dignity, and conscience, are all given a price tag," he said. "The Party officials who commit crimes against humanity still go about with their heads high, having long forgotten their indelible bloody crimes. The Western politicians who have become their accomplices have forsaken the conscience and sense of honor that humans should have."

Yet he also told his wife to "be sure to stay close to ordinary Americans."

"I love the American people, just as I have always loved American values," he said. "It was American people and values that gave you, my wife, and our two children, a new life and new hope."

Prominent Chinese dissidents such as Chen Guangcheng say that when U.S. officials apply public pressure on their Chinese counterparts, it can result in better treatment for political prisoners.

Some human rights activists and lawyers have called on President Obama to cancel the summit with Xi unless the Party releases all of those imprisoned for political reasons.

Published under: China