China bars attorney from Buddhist master

MONK BEHIND BARS::Detained Buddhist master Shi Shengguan’s Dharma student Shi Guoshi is worried about his health, and says she is barred from leaving China

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Sun, Sep 21, 2014 - Page 3

Chinese authorities have rejected the request of pro-democracy Chinese Buddhist master Shi Shengguan’s (釋聖觀) lawyer to visit him in prison, while also barring his dharma student, Buddhist nun Shi Guoshi (釋果實), from leaving the country.

Chinese authorities have charged Shi Shengguan with “inciting subversion of state power” and have kept the Buddhist master detained in prison since May.

“I was scheduled to take Air China flight CA835 from Wenzhou, China, to Taiwan, but I was told at the border that I’ve been banned from leaving the country,” Shi Guoshi told the Taipei Times via e-mail.

“After repeated inquiries, the Wenzhou Airport authority finally told me that the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau has informed them that I am indefinitely barred from leaving the country because I am suspected of being involved in activities threatening national security,” Shi Guoshi said.

Long an advocate for human rights and democracy, Shi Shengguan was arrested unexpectedly after a dharma teaching session in Wuhan, China, on May 17, only weeks before the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square Massacre, was charged with “inciting subversion of state power” and has been in detention ever since.

After several failed attempts to rescue her dharma teacher, Shi Guoshi came to Taiwan in July, meeting with human rights activists and Buddhist figures, including Buddhist masters Shih Chao-hwei (釋昭慧) and Shih Hsing-yun (釋星雲), pleading with them to help.

There had been cause for optimism, when a few days after Shi Guoshi returned to China, prison authorities in Wuhan informed her of Shi Shengguan’s whereabouts and asked her to deliver medication to him.

Last week, the prison authorities again contacted Shi Guoshi, asking her to hire an attorney for Shi Shengguan.

However, the prison authority has rejected the attorney’s request to visit Shi Shengguan in prison for two days in a row.

“My dharma teacher’s health is deteriorating, and the prison conditions aren’t good either,” Shi Guoshi said. “The lawyer is working hard to get the prison authorities to grant him the right of religion he should enjoy — if the prison will respect Muslim dietary traditions, why is it overlooking that of a Buddhist monk?”

Shi Guoshi said that while her travel ban came as a surprise and she does not know if the Chinese government will take further actions against her, she is most worried about the safety of her dharma teacher, and urged anyone who would to help call for Shi Shengguan’s release.