Liberty University student petitions for release of father from…

“I will be back within 24 hours.”

That was the last thing Liberty University student Chongyu Xia recalled his father saying as security officials escorted him out of their Beijing home.

That also was the last time Chongyu Xia saw his father.

It’s now been 900 days since his father was taken, according to Chongyu Xia’s recently released petition meant to urge the Embassy of China in Washington, D.C., to broker the release of his father, Xia Lin, a human rights lawyer.

Xia Lin was arrested Nov. 8, 2014, accused of “gambling and fraud,” according to the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), a coalition of Chinese and international human rights non-governmental organizations dedicated to the promotion of human rights through peaceful efforts, according to its website. According to a CHRD letter to the United Nations, Xia Lin was accused of defrauding $1.5 million to pay off debts incurred through a gambling addiction.

In an interview with The News & Advance on Tuesday, Chongyu Xia said his father didn’t have a gambling addiction: “It’s not real.”

“Mr. Xia’s detention on financial charges is a blatant pretext used by the government to punish him for being a human rights lawyer,” the CHRD letter reads. “Xia Lin has practiced law for over two decades and during the second half of his career, he founded a pro-bono legal service firm to take on public interest cases and represented individuals from marginalized groups. Xia had gained prominence for defending sensitive cases that were widely reported by Chinese media, which led to harassment from authorities.”

After the arrest, Xia Lin wasn’t questioned about fraud — he was questioned about his cases, Chongyu Xia said.

“We’re pretty sure this is political persecution,” he said.

Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), the government-funded public broadcasting service in Hong Kong, reported about a dozen people marched Monday to protest the jailing of Xia Lin.

“Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki said the accusations against Xia amount to ‘character assassination,’” the article on the RTHK website reads. “Kwok said [China] President Xi Jinping is getting more heavy handed with dissidents and the Communist Party is sending out clear warnings that it will not tolerate any freedom of speech or calls for human rights.”

Chongyu Xia, 21, said he came to the United States in August 2015 to escape the Chinese government, which he said is known for capturing families and using them to force confessions from prisoners. Currently a sophomore majoring in public health, Chongyu Xia started at LU in the fall of 2015.

“We are afraid about that,” he said. “They could come [for] me or my mom, so they sent me to America, and now I’m a student here … we know they are coming after us, so I escaped before they came.”

An only child, Chongyu Xia said his mother, Ru Lin, still is in China working to get his father freed. He said “they won’t touch her” because she’s in the spotlight.

“She works with scholars and law professionals to get their opinions … on how they view this case … they all think it’s not [fraud],” he said. “… We tried to [put] pressure on the court and the Chinese government to try and give him a fair, just trial, but it didn’t work.”

Attempts to reach officials at The Embassy of China in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Rebekah Yanping Yu met Chongyu Xia in 2015 during his first semester at Liberty University. When she learned he was Xia Lin’s son, she said she immediately knew he was “the lawyer Xia Lin’s son” because she pays close attention to human rights lawyers who are caught by the Chinese government, some of whom are her friends.

“I think Xia Lin is innocent. He helps a lot of vulnerable groups [get] their rights then [the] government gets angry for what he does,” she said. “… [They are] not just angered by Xia Lin, they [are] angered [by] anybody who disagreed [with them] and disobedience.”

Xia Lin was sentenced April 20 to 10 years in prison, after he initially was sentenced to 12 years last September.

Chongyu Xia and said he and his mother tried to negotiate Xia Lin’s release, but nothing came of it. So that’s why he started the petition.

“I don’t have much idea with it now,” he said. “I’m just going to do the petition, collect [many] signatures and then deliver it to the Chinese embassy located in D.C. and see how that works. I’ll figure out after that what I will do because I’m not sure yet.”

While his original dream to attend college in China and move to Japan was derailed by his move to the United States, Chongyu Xia said he wishes he could go back to China.

“Honestly, I want to go back ’cause that’s where I come from, that’s where I belong, you know? But it might be risky for me so I need to think about it carefully,” he said.

Publication: The News and Advance


Courtesy Chongyu Xia

LU student testifies before congress on father’s plight in China

On Wednesday, Liberty University student Chongyu Xia took his fight for his father’s freedom to the United States government.

The rising junior, fighting for the release of his father, Xia Lin, a human rights lawyer currently imprisoned in China, spoke before American legislators Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

“I am not alone,” Chongyu Xia said in a statement to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC). “As a rising nation, China’s deteriorating human rights record is unacceptable. When a human rights lawyer cannot secure his own fundamental rights, I believe every member’s rights in the society are threatened.”

Chongyu Xia was one of four people to testify at the hearing titled “Gagging the Lawyers: China’s Crackdown on Human Rights Lawyers and Its Implications for U.S.-China Relations.” The others were Terence Halliday, co-director of the Center on Law & Globalization at the American Bar Foundation; Teng Biao, Chinese human rights lawyer and co-founder of the Open Constitution Initiative and China Human Rights Accountability Center; and Li Xiaorong, an independent scholar formerly with the University of Maryland Institute for Philosophy & Public Policy.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., chairman of the CECC, and Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., co-chair of the CECC, led the hearing.

“Chinese officials repeatedly tell me that I should focus more on the positive aspects of China and not dwell so much on the negative,” Smith began, according to video of the event. “ … That is an extremely difficult task when you read the horrifying and sadistic accounts of torture and enforced disappearances experienced by lawyers and rights advocates.”

Xia Lin was arrested Nov. 8, 2014, and accused of “gambling and fraud,” according to the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), a coalition of Chinese and international human rights non-governmental organizations dedicated to the promotion of human rights through peaceful efforts, according to its website.

Renee Xia, international director at CHRD, said Xia Lin’s arrest was related directly to his work as a lawyer, where he handled high-risk cases defending human rights activists, lawyers, and ethnic or religious minorities.

“We believe the unfair trial and harsh prison sentence against Mr. Xia [Lin] is the government’s retaliation for his lawyerly work defending his clients’ due process rights, in violation of Chinese law and international human rights law,” Renee Xia said.

CHRD researcher Frances Eve said Xia Lin is a victim of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s oppression of dissenting voices and lawyers.

“The ‘fraud’ case was clearly pre-determined from the beginning and an act of revenge for his professional work as a lawyer,” Eve said, calling Xia Lin’s case a “mockery of justice.”

Chongyu Xia agreed and previously has told The News & Advance the fraud and gambling charges against his father were fake.

“We’re pretty sure this is political persecution,” he said.

Xia Lin was sentenced April 20 to 10 years in prison, after initially being sentenced to 12 years last September.

After the sentencing, Chongyu Xia began fighting his father’s charges with renewed vigor, starting a petition that quickly garnered thousands of signatures from all over the world, with more than 95,320 names sitting on the list as of Thursday night.

Less than a month later, on May 9, Chongyu Xia marched up the steps to the Embassy of China in Washington, D.C., to deliver the letter featured in his petition.

His case was not heard by the embassy that day, Chongyu Xia said, and so he read his letter aloud outside the building before retreating down the steps.

But that setback didn’t stop him or his mother, Ru Lin, who is in China fighting for her husband’s release, Chongyu Xia said.

“I refuse to accept this illegal and unjust verdict,” Chongyu Xia said.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Rubio said July 9 will mark the two-year anniversary of the “709” crackdown, which was the start of what has been described as an unprecedented nationwide crackdown on human rights lawyers and legal advocates in China.

“While perhaps unprecedented in scale and coordination — nearly 300 rights advocates were detained, summoned for questioning, or disappeared — the crackdown began much earlier,” Rubio said according to transcripts.

Halliday said the “709” crackdown occurred due to the quickly intensifying economic and social problems in China lawyers had been drawing attention to in highly visible ways.

“Clearly, China’s leaders felt vulnerable to activist, die-hard and ordinary lawyers’ enhanced powers to mobilize publics,” he said, explaining Chinese activist lawyers have increased in number and united on social media platforms to mobilize and inspire others.

Biao detailed a chain of events that involved multiple kidnappings by China’s secret police, being disbarred and ultimately torture in a “black jail,” defined by NGO Human Rights Watch as secret, unlawful detention facilities, for 70 days.

“Dozens of lawyers were severely tortured, including beatings, electric shocks, sleep deprivation, prolonged interrogations, death threats, months or years of solitary confinement, humiliation, forcible televised confessions, so on and so on,” he said. “Notably, it has been confirmed that many lawyers and activists were force-fed with medicines which caused them muscle pain, blurred vision and other physical and mental harm.”

Biao, Chongyu Xia and the other members ended their statement with a plea for the U.S. government to increase its involvement with human rights cases in China and hold China accountable through means such as expulsion from the UN Human Rights Council.

“A powerful and autocratic China will bring calamities to mankind,” Biao said. “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.”

Chongyu Xia said human rights lawyers are the cornerstone of society, and by taking a clear stance, the U.S. Government would communicate to the world that human rights violations will not be tolerated.

Date: June 29, 2017

Publication: The News and Advance