US Politician Helps Secure Release of Disabled Prisoner From China's 'Black Jail'

Reports stemming from a U.S. humanitarian organization indicate that Liu Bingtong, a disabled prisoner and victim of China's "One-Child Policy," has been released from one of China's secret "black jails" with the help of U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), whose letter to Chinese officials requesting Bingtong's release was published on a human rights website.

"'All Girls Allowed' is thankful for news that Liu Bingtong is now free to leave the black jail where he was detained illegally – this swift response to Rep. Chris Smith's letter is encouraging. Still, we urge the guards who held Liu Bingtong to return his wheelchair to him so he can actually leave," the U.S.-based, Christian humanitarian group "All Girls Allowed," which advocates for the restoration of female values in China, said in a statement.

"We also urge the authorities to seek justice for Mr. Liu, whose daughter went missing over a decade ago while she was wrongly detained by officials as an eight-year-old. Like the citizens of China, we look forward to the day when no Chinese man or woman will fear petitioning because of threats from police. We pray that day will come soon, through the grace of Jesus," it added.

"All Girls Allowed," which was founded by human rights activist and student leader in the Tiananmen protests of 1989 Chai Ling, has been closely monitoring Bingtong's 14-year struggle with the Chinese government.

Bingtong's Monday release marked the eighth day of his imprisonment in the Min Le Li Yi Hotel, in the South District of Zhengzhou City in the Henan province, where he remained without food, his wheelchair, or use of a restroom.

The Min Le Li Yi Hotel is considered a "black jail" because it has no official legal status, and is used primarily to detain petitioners seeking retribution for their grievances beyond a local level.

Bingtong was able to use a cell phone to call "All Girls Allowed" founder Chai Ling on Thursday, July 12.

Bingtong briefly spoke with Ling saying that with his dire circumstances he was not sure how long he could survive.

Ling then contacted Rep. Chris Smith, who addressed a letter to the mayor of Zhengzhou.

In the letter, Smith pleaded for Bingtong's release. The letter was published on a human rights website and according to All Girls Allowed, was the contributing factor to Bingtong's recent freedom.

As reports indicate, Bingtong, a concessions vendor, has endured 14 years of sporadic imprisonment in China and is the victim of many government crackdowns regarding China's "One-Child Policy," which has remained in effect for the past 35 years.

The policy states that all families may only have one child, and must pay a fee of 40,000 yuan ($6,300) fine for each additional child. Due to the higher value of males in Chinese culture, the "One Child Policy" often results in the death or disappearance of young girls.

Bingtong's turmoil began in 1999 when he was arrested for refusing to give his concession sales space to another vendor. Bingtong was imprisoned along with his wife and young daughter.

While Bingtong and his wife were eventually released, their daughter has never reappeared.

Bingtong argues that he initially started to work as a concession vendor to pay off the debt accumulated from having four children.

"We had four children, and to pay the fines we had to move to a different city to try to make a living," he said, according to the "All Girls Allowed" report.

Bingtong then repeatedly petitioned his daughter's disappearance over the past 14 years, both to the local government and then to the central government in Beijing.

He has repeatedly been arrested for his petitions. In 2001, when petitioning his daughter's disappearance, he was reportedly given a concessions permit, a small sum of money and the right to establish his daughter's case as long as he kept the government's suspected involvement with her disappearance silent.

Although he complied with these conditions, he was arrested in 2004 for alleged extortion against the government. During this imprisonment, he was reportedly beaten so badly by officials that he lost the use of both his legs.

Although Bingtong has technically been released, Rep. Smith is demanding that the Chinese government take responsibility for its human rights violations against Bingtong.

"I would respectfully request and sincerely hope that you will be able to immediately stop the beatings and torture of Mr. Liu, get his wheelchair back to him, release him from prison, reunite him with his family, and compensate him for all the physical, psychological and economic losses he has suffered in the past fourteen years," Rep. Smith wrote.

"Those individuals who abused him and violently attacked him causing him to be disabled should also be brought to justice. We also would respectfully request that the municipal government help Liu Bing to find his lost daughter," he added.