As Biden Travels in Asia, Children of Chinese Political Prisoners Plead for Administration’s Help

By Penny Starr | December 6, 2013 | 4:38 PM EST

Chinese prisoners and police. (AP)

( – At a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing on Global Human Rights on Thursday, five young women testified about their fathers, all of whom have been jailed in Communist China for their activism, religious beliefs or political activities. The women asked for the Obama administration and Congress to intervene on their behalf.

“I join with my fellow sisters here today to request Vice President Biden to ask Chinese leaders to release our fathers, and to request an Oval Office meeting with President Obama to share our stories,” said Jiayin “Lisa” Peng, daughter of Peng Ming. “I know that my dream to be reunited with my father and my father’s dream for his country can come true with your support, persistence, and affirmation of the universal and fundamental values of our country: freedom, democracy, and justice.”

Peng Ming, who was living in the United States on transitional refugee status, traveled to Thailand in 2004 and was kidnapped by Chinese agents and taken to China where he was sentenced to life in prison for “organizing and leading a terrorist organization,” according to information provided by the committee.

One after another the women – all of whom now live in the United States -- gave gripping testimony about their fathers and families’ harsh treatment by the Chinese government.

“The Chinese government today is in the business of breaking minds, bodies and hearts,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J., who chairs the subcommittee and is co-chair of the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China. “When China bullies, incarcerates, tortures—and even executes—a prisoner of conscience, their entire family and friends suffer an excruciating sense of loss, bewilderment, emotional pain and agony."

“Often members of the family are themselves subjected to interrogation, mistreatment and house arrest in order to amplify the hurt,” Smith said. “In a very real sense, everyone close to a prisoner of conscience goes to jail and lives a seemingly unending nightmare."

“Every day, family and friends are left to wonder what terrible abuse awaits dad or mom or a brother or sister or child,” Smith said. “Every day, the tears flow.”

In her testimony GeGe “Grace” Gao said her father is an attorney who fought for people who were persecuted for their religious beliefs. He was taken by police from her aunt’s home in China in 2006 and has been jailed since then.

“I wish that President Obama and Vice President Biden could mention about my father’s name Gao Zhisheng in public occasions and urge the immediate release of my father without conditions,” GeGe said in her testimony. “I wish that staffs from U.S. Embassy in China could go to visit my father in the prison. It has been almost a year now that no family or lawyer visit was allowed to see my father.”

Ti-Anna Wang’s father, Wang Bingzhang, is now serving the 11th year of a life sentence in China for his democracy activism -- he had been charged with terrorism and espionage by the Communist regime.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.  (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

“I unabashedly ask the leaders of the U.S. government, including President Obama, Vice-President Biden, Secretary of State Kerry, and Ambassador Powers to seize all diplomatic opportunities with China to seek the release of our fathers,” Wang said. “I believe high-level diplomacy is our fathers’ best chance for freedom, and their releases must be discussed on occasions such as Vice-President Biden’s recent trip to Beijing.”

“I sincerely ask the U.S. government, Mr. Biden, and the president to [have] more concern of the families of prisoners of conscience and help us to free our fathers,” Bridgette Liu said. “And I ask for an Oval office meeting with President Obama for a more direct and detailed conversation in order to reunite our families.”

Liu said her father was absent from her life until she was 11 because he was imprisoned for his “political views.” Although released for some time, in 2010 he was taken into custody again by police.

Liu now lives in the United States but her mother has been unable to get a passport from the Chinese government.

Danielle Wang spoke of the upcoming holiday season and how it is always “bittersweet.”

“In China, we would be starting to look forward to Chinese New Year,” Wang said. “But this time of year is always bittersweet for me, because of the painful absence in my family since my father’s summary arrest and detention in July of 1999.”

The hearing came just days ahead of International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10.

In 2012, Obama issued a statement to mark that occasion:

“People everywhere long for the freedom to determine their destiny; the dignity that comes with work; the comfort that comes with faith; and the justice that exists when governments serve their people -- and not the other way around. The United States of America will always stand up for these aspirations, for our own people and for people all across the world.  That was our founding purpose.”

Representative Smith plans to follow up the hearing by forwarding the requests of the witnesses to the White House, according to the committee.