Extralegal: U.S. Hits China on Dissidents’ Families

At the latest U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue, the U.S. delegation made a special point to focus on the wives and families of political dissidents, particularly , the wife of Nobel Laureate . From the Wall Street Journal:

Speaking at a press conference following his meeting with Chinese officials Thursday, Mr. Posner said the U.S. delegation spent more time pressing Chinese authorities on the condition of Liu Xia, wife of jailed Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, than they did inquiring about Mr. Liu himself.

Ms. Liu became a fiery critic of the government in the aftermath of her husband’s arrest and subsequent sentencing to 11 years in prison for his role in drafting a petition known as Charter 08, which among other things called for rule of law and open elections in China. But unlike her husband, whom authorities formally charged with subverting state power, Ms. Liu’s status is unclear. Several reports have said she has been confined to her home, but U.S. officials said they have been unable to confirm her whereabouts.

“We, I think, would be very eager to meet with her, to have communication, to make sure she has communication with others,” Mr. Posner said. “And there is some real concern on our part that she is in a kind of legal limbo at this point. It’s not clear what her status is.”

The emphasis on Ms. Liu’s case suggests the U.S. may redouble efforts to press cases where activists are being held outside the justice system. Unlike Mr. Liu’s case, which included formal charges and a sentencing, authorities say little if anything about extrajudicial detainments.

Extrajudicial detainment of Chinese dissidents has been increasing. Furthermore, this method of control can be just as restrictive as conventional imprisonment. From the Bulletin:

Chen Guangcheng is officially a free man, but it is hard to imagine a life more constrained. One of the country’s most prominent rights defenders, Chen is confined to his home 24 hours a day by security agents and hired peasant men armed with sticks, bricks and walkie-talkies. Visitors who try to see him are physically repelled and sometimes beaten. Blinding floodlights illuminate his stone farmhouse at night.

With Internet and phone service blocked, he has no contact with the outside world. And the punishment is not his alone: Chen’s wife and young daughter have been subjected to the same restrictions since he emerged from a 51-month prison sentence last September, widely viewed as retribution for his advocacy efforts against a local family planning campaign of forced abortions and sterilizations.

Though Chinese authorities deny the existence of such measures, Communist Party security officials appear to be expanding the use of extended home confinement, abductions and in some cases assault or torture against a broadening array of perceived enemies, according to rights advocates and legal experts. One group, Chinese Human Rights Defenders, logged more than 3,500 cases of arbitrary last year, a category that includes people held in so-called black jails or in psychiatric hospitals.

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