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Family pleads for son's, brother's, release

Darah Hansen/Richmond News

Darah Hansen/Richmond News

Guifang and Junzhen Wang, parents of imprisoned Chinese dissident Dr. Wang Bingzhang, are trying to rally support to have their son freed from prison.

Family pleads for son's, brother's, release

By Darah Hansen

He was fighting for freedom and democracy in China when he was arrested and convicted in a dubious court procedure on charges of espionage and terrorism.

Now the Richmond family of Chinese political dissident Dr. Wang Bingzhang is struggling for his freedom from a lifetime of solitary confinement in the Shaoguon prison in Guangdongsheng, China.

"He is not a criminal," said a tearful Guifang Wang, the elderly mother of the 56-year-old medical doctor - who practised mainly in the U.S. - and well-known Chinese pro-democracy advocate.

"I would like to ask everybody to help in saving my son."

Guifang Wang spoke at a press conference, Wednesday, in front of the Chinese consulate on Granville Street.

Her husband, Junzhen Wang, daughters Mei and Linda Wang, grandson Edward Qiu and representatives from Amnesty International and Worldrights joined the frail 84-year-old in front of the consulate's closed front gates, pleading for Dr. Wang's immediate release.

"We are ill and we are very old and it won't be very long before we will be passing on," Guifang Wang said of she and her 86-year-old husband. "I hope to see our son before we go. We are very afraid we won't be able to see him one more time."

Dr. Wang's own medical condition is also questionable.

Though the Chinese government has denied any serious illness on the part of their prisoner, the Wang family believes his life is hanging in the balance.

Mei Wang was the last in her family to see her brother. She flew to China earlier this month for a 40-minute reunion in a cold cement room, a glass wall separating the siblings.

Wang said her brother's physical condition was "shocking."

Since launching a hunger strike earlier this year, Dr. Wang has suffered a stroke and has self-diagnosed a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism, among other serious physical ailments.

"He was very thin _ and was leaning towards his left," Mei Wang said, referring to the debilitating effects left by the stroke.

"He started walking towards me very, very slowly. I just said, 'How are you? You don't look too good.' He said, 'I had a stroke.'"

Wang said her brother's obvious poor health has left the family feeling desperate.

"All indications are he will not be able to survive too long," she said.

NGO's Amnesty and Worldrights have taken up the cause on behalf of the Wang family, all - except Mei Wang - residents of Richmond.

"We are calling for his immediate release on humanitarian grounds," said Timothy Cooper, Worldrights executive director.

Amnesty, meanwhile, is seeking a fair trial for Dr. Wang - something the international human rights organization firmly believes was not afforded him in January, 2003, when he was convicted in a half-day, closed court trial.

"This is China using the (anti-terrorism) mood of the world _ to convict a man who has spoken out for democracy, which is so badly needed," said Amnesty representative, Jennifer Wade.

Both groups are also seeking immediate medical attention be granted Dr. Wang through an impartial organization such as the International Red Cross.

Cooper said Dr. Wang was meeting with Chinese labour leaders in northern Vietnam in June, 2002, when he was "kidnapped" and taken back across the border into China "by nothing less than a band of Chinese government agents."

For five months, Cooper added, the dissident was held secretly behind bars, while the government repeatedly denied any knowledge of his whereabouts to his frantic family.

After more than seven months behind bars, Dr. Wang was convicted on charges of espionage and leading a terrorist organization. He was sentenced to life a month later.

At his trial, Dr. Wang - who has been active in the human rights movement for more than 20 years - denied all charges against him.

To Cooper, this is a classic case of an unjust government trying to silence what it believes is a powerful political voice.

"They fear Dr. Wang," he said. "They would do almost anything to eliminate him from the pro-democracy movement."

So far, Dr. Wang's cause has gained the support of the UN working group on arbitrary detention, which has declared his imprisonment a violation of international human rights. The U.S. House of Representatives and Canadian House of Commons' Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs have also called for Dr. Wang's immediate release. A similar proposal is currently under consideration in the British House of Commons.

Raymond Chan, Richmond's newly re-elected MP, has also joined the fight. On Wednesday, Chan met with the Wang family and promised to pass on their story on to Pierre Pettigrew, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

"I know this guy," Chan said of Dr. Wang, adding they'd crossed paths some 20 years ago at a human rights convention. "He is a very decent fellow."

Jennie Chen, spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs, said her office is aware of Dr. Wang's case.

"We have concerns about the trial and the transparency of the legal process," she said. "This is a file that we will continue to follow very closely."

How you can help:

According to Timothy Cooper, executive director of Worldrights, those interested in helping the Wang family seek justice for Dr. Wang Bingzhang should contact their Member of Parliament or Ministry of Foreign Affairs requesting the minister exert his influence on the Chinese government.

You can contact MP Raymond Chan's office here in Richmond at (604) 273-5633 or send a letter to 7420 Westminster Highway, Richmond, B.C. V6X 1A1.

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