US Makes Hollow Demand For China To Release Convicted Human Rights Activists

REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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The U.S. Department of State has called for China to release the four human rights lawyers and activists convicted in Tianjin last week.

The No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court in Tianjin sent Zhou Sifeng, director of the Fengrui Law Firm, and activists Hu Shigen, Zhai Yanmin, and Gou Hongguo, to prison on charges of challenging the Communist Party of China and “subversion of state power.” Among the convicted the lawyers, the minimum sentence was a suspended sentence of three years, and the maximum was seven and a half years. The convicted, members of a group of around 300 human rights lawyers and activists who were arrested during last year’s 709 crackdown, admitted to being manipulated by anti-China foreign forces.

“We urge Chinese authorities to release the lawyers and rights defenders who are imprisoned or in detention, including those already sentenced. We call for an immediate end to the cases brought against them and to restrictions on their freedom of movement and professional activities,” said State Department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau in a symbolic press statement released on Monday.

While the statement reaffirms America’s commitment to human rights, it is unlikely that the State Department’s demands will dramatically impact China. It put on a rather impressive anti-America show last week in the form of clearly-coerced confession videos and propaganda clips designed to demonstrate how foreign forces, specifically the U.S., manipulate good Chinese people and put them on a path towards darkness and criminal activities against the state.

A confession video featuring Wang Yu, a human rights lawyer who said that foreign forces “used her to darken the name of the Chinese government,” aired Monday. In the video, Wang also rejected an international human rights award claiming that she “is Chinese and can only accept the authority of the Chinese government.”

That same day, a propaganda video which blamed the U.S. for everything wrong in the world, began circulating online in China. After presenting images of war-torn countries, the video argues that “behind all these things, we can see the deep shadow of the star-spangled banner.” The video then claims that China is a stable, happy, and peaceful country, one which the U.S. hopes to cripple by subverting state power.

On Aug. 4, a video was released on the Communist Youth League’s Weibo account which portrayed human rights dissidents and their families and friends as pieces in a Western plot to undermine the authority of the Chinese government. The video’s narrator said, “Everyone knows that a group of foreigners came to our city of Tianjin the other day. What were they doing here? Were they looking for business opportunities? Did they come to take in the beautiful scenery? To try some of the fried dough twists on 18th Street? Or some of Tianjin’s famous Goubuli meat buns? None of the above. They came here provoking trouble!”

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