VOC Testifies to US Congress on China’s Political Prisoners

Washington, D.C. – On April 20 a leading international policy expert and former ambassador from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) testified before the US Congress at a public hearing entitled “China’s Political Prisoners: Where’s Gao Zhisheng?” 

During his testimony Ambassador Andrew Bremberg — President of VOC and former US Ambassador to the UN in Geneva — highlighted Beijing’s widespread persecution of political and religious prisoners in China including Uyghurs, House Christians, Falun Gong, and Tibetans, and provided recommendations for concrete actions to hold the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) accountable, including sanctions on the perpetrators and decoupling western supply chains that indirectly finance the abuses. 

“The CCP uses [China’s] criminal justice system as a political tool to target Chinese citizens who challenge the CCP’s authority. Individuals who pursue universal human rights, particularly when they independently organize or challenge the Party’s authority are considered ‘disruptive,’ remarked Ambassador Bremberg. “Individuals considered as ‘disruptive’ have been forcibly committed to psychiatric facilities, and dissidents and human rights lawyers have been extralegally detained in ‘black jails.’”  

The hearing — hosted by the 10-member, bipartisan House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations — also featured testimonies from Bob Fu, president of human rights group ChinaAid, Geng He, wife of dissident Gao Zhisheng, Sophie Luo, wife of human rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi, Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, and Thomas Kellogg, executive director of Georgetown University’s Center for Asian Law. Ms. He and Ms. Luo recounted their husbands’ harrowing stories of being detained and sentenced without proper trial for their work defending human rights in China. 

“The Biden Administration must step up and lead a global effort to free China’s prisoners of conscience,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who chairs the Subcommittee and co-chairs the VOC Caucus with Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH). “We cannot afford to separate human rights from other interests — especially trade — sacrificing both Chinese victims and American values in the process.” 

“Often the exposure of the rest of the world to what is happening in China is restricted too much, to a few Members of Congress or foreign leaders, and not enough people are widely aware of it,” said Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA), the Subcommittee’s Ranking Member. “And to your point [Ambassador] Bremberg, the economics of it is such that we have powerful leverage that for many reasons we’ve been reluctant to use…We have more power vis-à-vis China than any other nation in the world.”

In verbal remarks as well as his written testimony entered into the Congressional Record, Ambassador Bremberg delivered VOC’s policy recommendations to counter Beijing’s persecution of dissidents including: consistent and clear messaging in calling for the unconditional release of all political prisoners in China at the highest levels, raising these abuses across multilateral organizations and international bodies, publicly declaring that China is committing genocide and crimes against humanity, sanctions on Chinese officials, and full implementation of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA). 

The UFLPA, which took effect last June, nominally bans import of any products from Xinjiang into the US due to mass forced labor in the region — first demonstrated in 2019 by the groundbreaking research of VOC’s China Director Dr. Adrian Zenz. VOC has provided recommendations to Congress and relevant executive branch agencies on how to strengthen enforcement of the UFLPA, including in Dr. Zenz’s testimony last March to the House Select Committee on China.

The testimony is part of VOC’s ongoing work to support China’s political prisoners and hold Beijing accountable. To mark the five-year anniversary of Chinese dissident Gao Zhisheng’s forced disappearance by the authorities, VOC partnered with ChinaAid to host an event last September at the Victims of Communism Museum — featuring the unveiling of a portrait of Gao made by his wife using empty bullet shells, and including participation by Members of Congress and senior officials of the US State Department — to highlight Gao’s case and urge the US government to call for his unconditional release. 

In February VOC also co-hosted the Human Rights Defender Awards with the US State Department, which spotlighted the inspiring testimony of Sophie Luo about her husband, the human rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi, and featured remarks by Ambassador Bremberg as well as Uzra Zeya, US Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.