On a burning hot summer morning, in South-central China Hubei Province, approximately three hundred community schoolteachers (non-public schoolteachers) gathered in front of the City Government office building, sitting quietly and pleading with the government to fulfill a promise made decades ago. The government promised that each year, from 1996 to 1998, 500 community schoolteachers would be transferred into public school teaching posts so that they could enjoy the salary and benefits of government employees. However, the local government used the occurrence of natural disasters as an excuse to break its promise. Later, these teachers were laid off without pensions or compensation. Many of the teachers not only lost their jobs but also lost their chance to get another job. The teachers made their petition trips more than 10 times to Beijing, the country’s capital, and more than 15 times to Wuhan, the province’s capital. In return, they were threatened, deceived and harassed. Some teachers were put in prison or labor camp. Other teachers witnessed their family members lost employment because of them.
The news story above is only one of Liu Feiyue’s reports on his website. Liu was a middle-school teacher in Suizhou, Hubei Province. For decades, his dream had been to live in a democratic political system in China. In 1998, he joined a local organization named “Democratic Party” and became an active member. However, in China, such organizations are forced to join the Chinese Communist Party and must align with all the Communist Party’s doctrines. As a human right advocate, Liu sought a way to truly give voice to those oppressed or underrepresented people.
In 2006, Liu founded a website called Minsheng Guancha, which means Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch. On his website, he published stories about petitioners whose families were wrongfully sentenced to jail, unemployed laborers who lost social benefits and could not survive, farmers who were deprived of their farming land arbitrarily, teachers who were laid off without any social welfare, veterans who could not receive the financial aid that the government promised, and dissidents who were persecuted by the local authorities. He became one of the rare Chinese people who were not afraid of the Chinese government, and instead, an outspoken defender of human rights in China.
The cost of being a human right defender is prison, labor camp and torture. Liu has been detained multiple times for brief periods, often during high-profile events such as meetings of the National People’s Congress or international summits. On November 25, 2016, ABC News reported that Liu was arrested on suspicion of subverting state power. Subversion is a vaguely defined charge that the Chinese government often levels against human rights activists and dissidents. If convicted of subversion, Liu could face life in prison, the maximum penalty for anyone guilty of organizing a “scheme of subverting the state power or overthrowing the socialist system.”
This is an urgent call for the attention of all Chinese and international community who are concerned about human right issues in China. Please, stand for Liu. He is a light shining on the dark Chinese Communist regime. He should never be forgotten. I encourage you to join me in praying for him and his family.
(Photo from BBC.com)