Calls for China to celebrate Chinese New Year by freeing imprisoned Christian lawyers and granting religious freedom. Release International urges China to stop the torture after ordeal leaves Christian lawyer Li Chunfu terrified and traumatised.
Release International is calling on China to celebrate Chinese New Year (Jan 28) by releasing imprisoned Christian lawyers and resolving to grant full religious freedom.
Since July 2015, China has rounded up and detained more than 230 human rights lawyers and activists, many of them Christians. The latest to be released on bail, Christian Li Chunfu is showing signs of trauma and severe mental breakdown after his ordeal, which is said to have included torture by electric shock batons.
‘Torture is becoming commonplace in the treatment of lawyers who are being rounded up by the Chinese authorities,’ says Paul Robinson, the Chief Executive of Release International, which supports persecuted Christians around the world. ‘China must stop the torture. It must end the persecution of its lawyers and Christian leaders who are standing up for justice and righteousness in their nation.’
Li Chunfu’s wife described her husband as ‘terrified’ when he was released on bail on January 12 after his ordeal of more than 500 days. She said he looked old and emaciated and was panicky and fearful:
‘His eyes were lifeless…’ she said in statements to China Aid and China Change. ‘He clenched his fists all the time. [He] kept muttering “surveillance”… he felt like insects were biting his body inside, that his heart had been eaten away by bugs, and there wasn’t much left.’
The Christian lawyer has since been diagnosed with schizophrenia, yet his wife says he was ‘perfectly normal’ when he was arrested in August 2015.
Li Chunfu is best known for representing 200 miners in Hebei, who were calling for better safety standards at work. He has been charged with ‘inciting subversion of state power.’
His brother, lawyer Li Heping, has also been detained. He is said to have been tortured with electric shock batons to the point of passing out. Li Heping has been described as a devout Christian and father of two. He has defended house church leaders and environmental activists.
The brothers were among more than 200 lawyers, church leaders and justice campaigners rounded up by the authorities in the latest clampdown. Many were standing up for justice because of their Christian convictions. Charges include undermining state security and go all the way up to treason.
State-controlled media has mounted a high-profile campaign against the lawyers, branding them as corrupt and criminal.
Legal experts from many nations signed a letter to the world’s press this week calling on China to release its lawyers.
The group of judges and jurists say that along with electric batons, ‘torture methods [included] beatings; stress positions; blowing cigarette smoke in [the] face; food, drink and sleep deprivation; denial of medical care; denial of basic personal hygiene and death threats.’
They say other lawyers who have been tortured include Jiang Tianyong and Zhang Kai.
Release International is urging China to set them free. Says Paul Robinson:
‘These are lawyers, including Christians, who are standing up for justice in their country using the laws of their land. Release calls on China to stop the torture and release the lawyers and church leaders it has detained.
‘These are good people, not enemies of the state. China would be better served by celebrating their heart for justice.
‘We urge China to enter this New Year by resolving to trust your Christian citizens, grant them their legal rights and permit your countrymen to live in full religious freedom.’
Through its international network of missions Release serves persecuted Christians in 30 countries around the world, by supporting pastors and Christian prisoners, and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles, and working for justice. Release is a member of the UK organisations Global Connections and the Evangelical Alliance.