VIDEO: Key Moments from CECC hearing “Gagging the Lawyers: China’s Crackdown on Human Rights Lawyers & Its Implications for U.S.-China Relations”

June 30, 2017

(Washington)— U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), the chair and cochair respectively of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), held a hearing this week looking at the Chinese government crackdown on human rights lawyers and legal advocates.   

Witnesses included Terence Halliday, co-director of the Center on Law & Globalization at the American Bar Foundation and co-author of the book Criminal Defense in China: The Politics of Lawyers at Work; Teng Biao, Chinese human rights lawyer and a Visiting Scholar, Institute for Advanced Study; Li Xiaorong, independent scholar and former researcher at the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Maryland; and Xia Chongyu, the son of imprisoned  human rights lawyer Xia Lin.  

Partial transcripts and links to videos of some of the hearing’s key moments are below.  Witness testimonies and the opening statements of Senator Rubio and Congressman Smith can be found on the CECC’s website.  The hearing webcast is archived and can be viewed via the CECC’s YouTube page.

VIDEO:  Senator Rubio says U.S. problems with Chinese Communist Party, not the Chinese people

“I welcome China’s rise in many ways, I don’t welcome a totalitarian state’s rise…If somehow there was a Chinese government that cared about the rights of all mankind that could work together with us, I think we would be a lot further along in some the major issues confronting this country.  But when you don’t care about the rights of your own people, why would you care about the rights of anybody else?  That is our problem with the Chinese Communist Party, and its leadership, not its people.  While I remain hopeful for change, in the interim, we will continue to speak out…” 

VIDEO: Rep. Smith says U.S. must be a voice for those silenced and repressed in China

“The one thing that gives me hope is that the people of China long for liberty, justice and opportunity… The need for principled and consistent American leadership is now more important than ever, as China’s growing economic power, and persistent diplomatic efforts, have succeeded in dampening global criticism of its escalating repression and failures to adhere to universal standards. The U.S. must be a beacon of liberty and a champion of individual rights and freedoms.  The United States must also continue to be voice for those silenced, jailed, or repressed in China.   We cannot…will not…forget those in China bravely seeking liberty and justice and the unalienable rights we all share here in the United States—like China’s human rights lawyers—and like Liu Xiaobo—those who bravely seek peaceful change in China.  That’s our focus.  That’s our priority.  That’s our hopes and prayers for them. ”

VIDEOTerry Halliday explains why repression has not stopped the work of human rights lawyers

“Many lawyers build their courageous representation upon legal ideals that underwrite the good political society. They insist on the protection of basic legal freedoms, such as the right to be represented by a lawyer, due process in trials, and fair adjudication. They insist upon freedoms of speech, of association and religion...Our research documents that many lawyers, notable and ordinary practitioners, also draw their courage from their Christian faith. Christians insist upon the values of equality, most importantly, that in the eyes of God and in the eyes of the law, said one lawyer, “Chairman Mao is as equal as me”… They believe in fairness—that justice should be available reliably and fairly to all, whether they are Han Chinese or Tibetan, Party members or Falun Gong members. Finally, they hold China’s law accountable to God’s law.”

VIDEO: Teng Biao Offers Recommendations for U.S. Policy

“…A powerful and autocratic China will bring calamities to mankind. Supporting democracy and human rights in China not only corresponds to American declared values; it will also benefit American politics, society and economics in the long term. Please stand on the side of Chinese people, not on the side of Chinese Communist Party. China should be represented by the human rights lawyers, activists, dissidents and all Chinese people fighting for freedom and democracy, not the illegitimate Party and government.”

VIDEO: Xia Chongyu asks the U.S. Government to work for his father’s (Xia Lin) release

“Human rights lawyers are the cornerstone of the society. I hope the US. Government can increase its involvement in these cases in the future. Moreover, I wish the Congress of America could urge the Chinese government to stop controlling the judiciary system and stop the persecution against 709 lawyers. Lastly, I plead that the White House summon the Chinese ambassador and ask the Chinese government to respond to me and my 94,000 petition supporters….By making a clear stance, the US. Government would communicate to the world that human rights violations will not be tolerated. I appreciate the Congress for organizing this hearing so that our voice could be heard by the world.”

VIDEO:  Xiaorong Li says systematic human rights abuses call into question China’s fitness to take global leadership role

“Congress should support U.S. actions holding the Chinese government accountable for its failures to live up to its international human rights obligations…As China becomes a rising world power the government’s systematic human rights abuse raises serious questions about its credibility or fitness to take global leadership in areas where the U.S. is retreating. The Chinese government has a clear track record of signing up for international human rights treaties, meanwhile violating them outright—back at home and in countries where it is investing, lending money, and building infrastructures. It is important to lay bare this track record of deceit and hypocrisy. A government that can’t honor its own commitments, can’t keep its own promises has no credibility.”

VIDEO: Senator Rubio asks Xia Chongyu if he faced threats from the Chinese government 

“After my father was arrested, he was completely missing. We did not receive any warrant and so we do not know where they took him or who took him. That’s one of the pressures we got. The police also summoned my mom to ask her to divorce with my father, and I was on the threaten list, that is the reason why my family sent me here—to keep me safe. But I think, the first two years, I was threatened by the government...The police officers went to my family friends and other family members to threaten them, and me and my mom kind of get isolated. So, I’m just worrying about everything, and I was scared; I just kept silence here. But, I have learned—I have learned what is right to do and what is justice, I would say, so the pressure turned into my power, and I would have the chance to speak here.”

VIDEO:   Senator Rubio asks Terry Halliday whether prisoners of conscience benefit from public advocacy on their behalf

“In my empirical research and the work of our team, speaking to many activist lawyers over a period of time, there is absolutely no doubt in their mind that China must be spoken to publicly and China must be publicly shamed…I have no doubt that when the world speaks—out loud and publicly—China listens. China has a very thin skin. When the American Bar Association awarded its International Human Rights prize to Wang Yu, within 48 hours, the Global Times had an editorial trying to rebut that move. That tells me that not only was China listening, but China felt it had to respond. And finally, the point that you made, Mr. Chairman, is that in our interviews with notable activists, time and again, they have said that when there is public calling for their release or public calling for news about them, their treatment is improved. They can perceptibly point to the day or the week or the month when their treatment changes when the international has turned the spotlight publicly on their plight.”