Chen Guangcheng's "bold and courageous" appeal to China's Premier Wen Jiabao to investigate and hold responsible all corrupt officials who systematically beat and tortured him, his family and friends is a "reasonable demand that the Chinese government, supported by the international community, especially the U.S., must meet" said Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the Foreign Affairs human rights committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.
"This is a test of Premier Wen's commitment to fundamental human rights, the rule of law, and common decency," said Smith who recently convened a hearing in Washington, D.C. to spotlight the growing concern for Chen's safety and that of his family.
"It is also a test of America's resolve to safeguard human rights whenever and wherever those rights are violated," said Smith, who authored an amendment adopted the Foreign Affairs Committee last year, calling on President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to specifically highlight Chen's case by increasing requests for diplomatic visits to him and his family and to raise the issue of persecuted human rights leaders with the Chinese government.
Following Chen's daring escape days ago, Smith wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about Chen and his family's safety. Click here to read the letter.
Smith said that Chen, his wife and even his grandmother, and numerous others who have sought to assist Chen have been savagely beaten because he defended women from the cruelty of forced abortion. The human rights group ChinaAid has posted a new 15-minute video of Chen pleading for justice and expressing concerns for the safety of his family. ChinaAid's founder and President "Bob" Xiqiu Fu, a former Chinese prisoner, testified at the Smith emergency hearing on Chen.
"The Chinese government construed Chen's compassion for women and unborn children as a crime," said Smith who, since last October, has been repeatedly denied a visa by China to go there and visit Chen at his home where he was under house arrest.
After viewing Chen's video, Smith said that "Chen has pleaded with anyone and everyone concerned about his plight to "pay special attention' to his family who are at great risk." Smith said at least four of Chen's relatives are known to have been subjected to harsh interrogations since Chen's escape.
"The eyes of the world are on Premier Wen Jiaboa, the Chinese government and U.S. diplomatic leaders--Secretary Hilary Clinton; Assistant Secretary of East Asian Affairs Kurt Campbell; and Assistant Secretary for Human Rights Michael Posner--all of whom are in or are about to be in Beijing," said Smith. "Chen's dramatic escape from his prison home in rural Shandong province underscores the depth of the danger facing his family and his need to once again--in the most conspicuous way possible--call the world's attention to human rights abuses in China.
"The cruelty and extreme violence against Chen and his family brings dishonor to the government of China and must end," Smith said.
"Over the next few hours/days, whatever it takes, everything discussed in China between Secretary Clinton and Premier Wen, as well as their staffs, must be through the prism of the struggles, torture, escape and justice overdue Chen Guangcheng, his family and other human rights activists in China," said Smith.
"Perhaps it is a gift that so many U.S. leaders are there. They must push for human rights like never before," said Smith who has held over three dozen hearings on human rights abuses in China.
"On her first trip to China, Secretary Clinton said she would not allow human rights concerns to "interfere' with other issues like global warming and debt. That's nonsense," Smith said. "Chen and his family must be free."
Blinded by a childhood disease, Chen Guangcheng is a self-taught Chinese lawyer who began his legal advocacy career in 1996 educating disabled citizens and farmers about their rights. Decades later, when local villagers started coming to him with their stories of forced abortions and forced sterilizations, Chen and his wife Yuan Weijing documented these stories, later building briefs and lawsuits against the officials involved.
Officials began a barbaric campaign against Chen and his family in 2005, after Chen criticized the brutality of the one-child policy in Linyi, Shandong province. The Chinese government placed him under house arrest, convicted him on trumped-up charges and forced Chen to serve over four years in prison, despite serious health issues. Over the years Chinese officials have subjected Chen and his family to beatings, extralegal detention, numerous violations of their rights under criminal procedure law, confiscation of their personal belongings, 24-hour surveillance and invasion of their privacy, disconnection from all forms of communication, and even denial of education for their six-year old daughter. He escaped from house arrest last week.
Twenty eight years ago--on May 9, 1984--Smith authored the first-ever amendment (which passed the House) to a U.S. foreign aid bill to deny funding to organizations such as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) that are complicit with China's forced abortion policy. It has been reoffered each year since.