- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 24, 2009

American activists are demanding Obama administration action on the arrest of Chinese human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who was dragged away from his home in front of his family after being drawn back to China by the possibility of a meeting with President Obama in Beijing.

“President Obama should pick up the phone and call [Chinese President] Hu Jintao,” Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, said Monday at a Capitol Hill press conference. “This man asked to meet with the president and was turned down.”

U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman “should be in his car today visiting him and his family,” added Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican. “Human rights concerns have been sidelined by this administration.”

And last Friday, Amnesty International criticized the Chinese government’s treatment of Mr. Jiang not a whole day after Mr. Obama’s departure and noted that “dozens” of lawyers and activists were detained and barred from talking with foreign journalists during the Obama visit.

“It is a very negative sign that the Chinese government now actually steps up its repressive tactics during sensitive public events,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnestys Asia-Pacific director. “This is a clear signal to Chinas civil society, as well as to the United States, that the Chinese government will not abide by its international human rights obligations even when it knows the whole world is watching.”

Mr. Jiang had just returned from a five-week American tour including criticism his government’s human rights record. He testified twice, on Oct. 29 and Nov. 10, in front of Congress about what he termed “harassment, suppression and persecution” of lawyers like him by Chinese authorities.

He flew back to China soon after the Nov. 10 hearing because he had received word from the embassy in Beijing that Mr. Obama might meet with selected human rights lawyers during his visit, Mr. Smith said.

Mr. Jiang and another lawyer came to the embassy the morning of Nov. 18 - Mr. Obama’s last day in Beijing - only to be told no such meeting was in the works. Then they were arrested, interrogated in a nearby hotel, then put under house arrest until the president flew out that afternoon.

Early the following morning, Nov. 19, Mr. Jiang was waylaid outside his Beijing home by about four police officers, according to a chronology assembled by ChinaAid, a human rights group. The lawyer was leaving his Beijing home to take a 7-year-old daughter to school. While he was forced into a waiting police car, a police officer named Wang Tao tackled Mr. Jiang’s wife, throwing her to the ground while the daughter sobbed.

ChinaAid said it contacted the U.S. Embassy in Beijing to report the arrest and the embassy called the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to protest, an account confirmed by the State Department.

As human rights lawyers rallied in front of the police station where Mr. Jiang was being detained, the lawyer was told he was guilty of beating up Officer Wang.

“I was holding my daughter’s hand with my left hand and her school bag with my right hand; how could I have beaten up a policeman?” Mr. Jiang responded, according to the ChinaAid account. “And there were at least four of them.”

After 13 hours of being questioned, Mr. Jiang was told “you have not seen the last of this yet” by the police station’s vice director before he was sent home about 9:30 p.m.

Mr. Jiang remains under house arrest, Mr. Smith said.

A State Department spokeswoman said the U.S. Embassy in Beijing has no plans to further protest the attorney’s treatment, nor was the department aware of any plan to have Mr. Obama meet with human rights lawyers.

The White House did not immediately return a call asking for comment on Mr. Jiang’s detention, the Washington press conference, and the accusations raised there.

Wang Baodong, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said Mr. Jiang must have done something wrong.

“If legal actions are taken against anyone, he or she must have done something in violation of the Chinese laws, and that has nothing to do with other factors such as a foreign leader’s visit to China,” he wrote in e-mail.

“We strongly believe that China is on the right development path, so is today’s China-U.S. relationship. Noises made by a handful of anti-China people may be misleading for the American public, but they will not stop the historical trend,” he concluded.

However, last Friday the U.S. Embassy in Beijing did call for the release of Xue Feng , a China-born U.S. citizen who has been imprisoned for two years on state secrets charges.

Mr. Xue is a geologist who was detained two years ago this month after trying to buy a database of information about China’s oil industry, according to Agence France-Presse. He was arrested in April 2008 and charged with procuring state secrets for overseas entities. The embassy said Mr. Xue’s case was raised during Mr. Obama’s visit.

Also Monday, according to wire service reports from China, veteran dissident Huang Qi was sentenced to three years in prison for illegally possessing state secrets. He had posted several reports on his blog criticizing the government over poorly built schools that were destroyed in a massive earthquake that killed about 90,000 people in Sichuan province in June 2008.

Mr. Jiang is one of a cadre of Chinese lawyers who have taken on unpopular causes ranging from defending migrants’ rights to the fates of Tibetan activists and Falun Gong followers.

He is best known for his defense of blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, who was imprisoned in 2005 and remains in jail for organizing a class-action lawsuit against reported widespread forced abortions and sterilizations in China.

Activists at Monday’s Washington press conference said Mr. Obama’s silence on human rights had chilling effects less than 24 hours after he left the country.

“All the newspapers in Europe are saying Obama came back empty-handed,” said Wei Jingsheng, a former political prisoner in China, speaking through an interpreter. “He didn’t bring back much and appeared to say little.”

There is widespread anger around China about the denial of basic human rights, “which are deteriorating in China,” he said. “If this continues, Chinese society will collapse.”

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