Notable Lawyer's 'Disappearance' Exposes China's Hate of Religious Freedom

Commentary by Terence Halliday in the Christian Post

My friend, Li Heping was "disappeared" on July 10, 2015.

Detained by China's security apparatus, Li Heping, a practicing Christian, has not been seen for 365 days by his wife or child, nor his chosen lawyers and diplomats rightly concerned about his safety.

Seized in the first wave of China's infamous "709" crackdown on hundreds of rights lawyers and activities, for a year Li Heping has been held in isolation, his only company round-the-clock security guards, punctuated by lengthy interrogations. Longtime observers of "disappeared" lawyers state there is a high probability of intense psychological and probably physical torture.

Who is Li Heping and what does his treatment tell us about freedom of religion and speech in China?

His powerful impulse to defend the weak and vulnerable grew out of Li Heping's early life in nearby populous Henan Province. From a poor family, he started his legal career in 1997 as a commercial lawyer. He moved to Beijing and quickly built the Global Law firm into a powerhouse of rights defense where many of China's most vocal rights lawyers concentrated their practice.

Like his rights colleagues, Li Heping took on high profile environmental pollution cases and the subsequently famous cause of blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng. He got deeply involved in many highly charged cases of property and land seizures by the government, and cases of religious freedom, most controversially defending Falun Gang adherents whose brutal persecution made rights defense dangerous even for the lawyers. In recent years he pulled back from the "front line" and led a fight against torture in China's justice system. He led workshops on international UN standards that define torture and recommended practices that restrained it.

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