04/27/2006, 00.00
UNITED STATES – CHINA
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US lawmakers urge Beijing to stop persecuting Gao Zhisheng

The US Congress has called on the Chinese government to "reinstate all licenses of Gao's law firm so he may continue his work" and "a review of the legal system".

Washington (AsiaNews/SCMP) - The US House of Representatives adopted a resolution on 26 April urging China to lift the suspension of the law firm of Gao Zhisheng, a famous human rights activist.

Gao's law office was ordered closed for a year, after he wrote an open letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao calling for an end to the persecution of the Falungong spiritual movement. Gao is also "guilty" of defending – often free of charge – ordinary people in lawsuits against the government and helping to educate rural farmers of their legal rights.

The House resolution, approved 421-0, urged Beijing "to reinstate all licenses of Gao's law firm so he may continue his lawyer's work" and to "remove all legal and political obstacles for lawyers attempting to defend criminal cases in China, including politically sensitive cases." The American MPs also sought "a revision of law and practice in China so that it conforms to international standards."

Gao's plight has become an international symbol of repression of dissidents by the Communist regime. "As a former soldier in the Peoples Liberation Army and ex member of the Chinese Communist Party, Gao was set to join China's political and social elite," said Tom Lantos, a Democratic MP.

"But instead of power and prestige, Gao opted to become a human rights lawyer in a nation where respect for human rights and political freedoms are not part of the government's lexicon."

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