Chinese human rights advocate in 'de facto house arrest' at hospital

WASHINGTON — Chinese human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng remains under "de facto house arrest" in a Beijing hospital with his wife and two children despite his desire to travel to the United States, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith said May 15.

Bob Fu of the U.S.-based China Aid Association testified in a subcommittee hearing that when Chen's two lawyers attempted to visit him in the hospital both were beaten and one lost hearing in one ear.

Chen spoke via phone to the House congressional panel that oversees international human rights, expressing concern for his family and supporters in China, particularly his brother and nephew who have been violently beaten.

At the hearing, Smith reiterated Chen's value to the cause of human rights in China.

"Chen Guangcheng is among the bravest defenders of women's rights in the world," Smith, R.-N.J., said. "Chen defended thousands of women from the ongoing, most egregious systematic state-sponsored exploitation and abuse of women in human history — pervasive forced abortion and involuntary sterilization as part of China's one child per couple policy — and has suffered torture, cruel and degrading treatment, unjust incarceration and multiple beatings as a result."

The magnitude of the exploitation of women in China has been largely overlooked, trivialized and even enabled by world leaders, Smith said. He also expressed a desire to keep international focus on Chen's case until it is favorably resolved.

Although the Chinese government said May 4 that Chen may apply to study abroad and the U.S. State Department confirmed that he had been offered a fellowship from an American university, the process appears stalled.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said May 15 all of the processing on the U.S. side has been completed for Chen, his wife and his two children.

"We are ready when he and his government are ready. We have been for more than a week now in terms of his visa to come pursue his studies," Nuland said. "He is continuing to work with his government. Our information is that those conversations, contacts and processing continue. And we've been in regular contact with him two or three times a day, every day."

Chen was under the impression his application for a passport was made last Sunday when he was visited by a Chinese official, Smith said, but Chen has not been notified of any further action on the application.

"With the exception of the half-hour each morning and afternoon that the children are escorted outside by one of the nurses, he and his family are not allowed to leave the hospital and no one is allowed inside to see them," Smith said.

Chen, a 41-year-old self-trained human rights lawyer, was imprisoned for more than four years because of his activism and then was put under house arrest. He escaped April 22 and sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for six days before being transferred to the hospital.

Smith is "extremely concerned" for Chen's welfare, as well as that of his family.

"Following his escape from house arrest, Chinese officials started breaking into the homes of his family in the same village and rounding up those who may have assisted him for interrogations," Smith said at the May 15 hearing. "When local officials and thugs broke into the home of Mr. Chen's brother, Mr. Chen's nephew, Chen Kegui, reportedly tried to defend himself with a kitchen knife. He is now in a police detention center."

Fu, in his testimony, said, "What I want to make clear to the American government and the American people is this: Do not be easily misled and deceived." He added that implementation of the agreement between the U.S. and China on Chen's future is far more important than the agreement itself.

"I hope that Congress will do more in monitoring and urging the Obama administration to ensure that the civil rights of Chen Guangcheng and his family members are protected by law," Fu said. "... His conscience, courage and spirit [have] been like a light shining in the long dark night of defending human rights in China."

Chen, speaking to the panel through a translator, said, "I want to extend my gratitude and thankfulness to all those who care and love my family and myself and our situation, especially to the American people who show they care about the policies and justice — those are universal values — I am very, very grateful to all of you.

"I'm not a hero. I am just doing what my conscience asks me to do. I cannot be silent. I cannot be quiet when facing this evil against women and children. This is what I should do," Chen said.

— BP
Published, May 16, 2012



Chen tells U.S. House members: I want to come to the U.S.
BEIJING — In a dramatic testimony by phone to the U.S. House committee Thursday, Chinese human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng made clear he wants to come to the U.S. and that he fears for his family's safety.

"I want to come to the U.S. to rest. I have not had a rest in 10 years," Chen said, according to a translation as reported by Reuters.

Chen, speaking from a hospital, also said he wanted to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"I'm really scared for my other family members' lives," Chen said. "[Chinese officials] have installed seven video cameras and are in my house."

Chen's testimony only added to a confusing set of media reports about his situation. Earlier in the day, USA Today reported that Chen was confident that the U.S. will help him leave the country.

"I am not disappointed in the U.S. government," Chen told the newspaper. "They made such a great effort. I am very grateful. It was under their great efforts that I got this important agreement."

Chen also called the agreement between the countries a "breakthrough."

"The Chinese government has promised to guarantee my civil liberties. Is this not a breakthrough? But its implementation is very important. It must be fully implemented, and this has not happened yet," he said.

Chen, a 40-year-old self-trained lawyer who has been blind since childhood, was imprisoned and then placed under house arrest for exposing forced abortions under China's one-child policy.

The State Department, meanwhile, continued Thursday to say Chen left the embassy of his own volition and expressed a desire to remain in China. Though that once was his intention, Chen told CNN the imminent threat he and his family have realized means their only hope for freedom is to leave China.

In an English transcript of his remarks to CNN, Chen said he believes U.S. officials failed to protect human rights in his case, and he appealed to President Obama to "do everything you can to get our whole family out."

Chen reiterated to CNN that he left the U.S. Embassy, where he had sought refuge, in order to receive medical care and reunite with his wife and two children at a Beijing hospital. He also feared that if he did not leave the embassy his family would be in danger.

Chen told CNN he was disappointed that no U.S. officials remained with him at the hospital overnight to ensure his safety and expressed frustration that at the time he had been unable to make contact with embassy representatives or U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., a longtime supporter.

"I want them to protect human rights through concrete actions," Chen replied when CNN asked what he wants to say to the U.S. government. "We are in danger. If you can talk to Hillary [Clinton], I hope she can help my whole family leave China ... as soon as possible."

Smith, chairman of the Congressional Executive Commission on China, held an emergency hearing on Chen Thursday (May 3) in Washington. Bob Fu of the Texas-based China Aid Association and Reggie Littlejohn of Women's Rights Without Frontiers were among those that testified.

"Chen and his associates are at great risk if they stay in China," Smith said in a statement May 2. "Even the hospital is a precarious place for this extraordinary human rights hero. The durable solution was, is and continues to be asylum.

"The secretary of state should visit Chen while he is in the hospital — as a direct act of solidarity — and to ensure his safety," Smith said. "And U.S. Embassy officials should re-interview Chen and his family to ensure that comments made under duress or based on misinformation do not result in sending him back to a place where he is tortured and beaten and could easily be killed."

Smith has been working to secure Chen's safety for years, and the Chinese Embassy has blocked his request for a visa to visit Chen since last October, the congressman said.

Littlejohn said in a statement May 3 that the United States "should immediately grant asylum" to Chen and his family as well as to He Peirong, the activist who rescued him.

"Chen is hugely symbolic in China, the conscience of the nation," Littlejohn wrote. "By challenging the One Child Policy, he has challenged the lynchpin of social control in China. This explains the ferocity of the Chinese Communist Party's reaction to him."

If the United States had granted asylum to Chen and his family and brought them safely to America from the embassy, Littlejohn said, "This would have erased a generation of anti-American propaganda and inspired gratitude, admiration and trust among the Chinese people."

"Instead the U.S. expediently dispatched Chen out the door, shattering our moral credibility before the world and losing the hearts and minds of a generation of Chinese people who share our values," Littlejohn wrote. "The only way to redeem the situation is as clear as it is urgent: Give asylum to Chen and his family — and to He Peirong as well. Bring them to safety in the United States, whatever it takes, on Hillary Clinton's plane."

Clinton has been in China this week for economic and strategy talks with Chinese leaders.

Gary Locke, the U.S. ambassador to China, recounted Thursday what transpired as Chen decided to leave the embassy.

"I can tell you that he knew the stark choices in front of him. He knew that — and was very aware that he might have to spend many, many years in the embassy," Locke said. "... He also was fully aware of the plight of his family if he stayed in the embassy."

The deal that the United States helped broker with China regarding Chen included his safe relocation to another part of China, and the Chinese government offered to pay for a college education at one of seven universities as well as living expenses for him and his family, Locke said. The Chinese government also agreed that while he was in the hospital, Chinese officials would listen to his complaints of abuse and conduct a full investigation.

"And so I can tell you unequivocally that he was never pressured to leave, he was excited and eager about leaving when he made his decision," Locke recounted.

The ambassador said Chen "never asked for asylum" while in the embassy.

"He always said he wanted to stay and live in China, and wanted to go back into China and continue his work on civil rights and to pursue an education."


— BP
Published, May 3, 2012