The widely reported escape of well-known blind Chinese human rights defender Chen Guangcheng from illegal home confinement is being closely followed by the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China and other human rights organizations around the world, said Commission Chairman Chris Smith, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
"I'm relieved to hear the reported news of human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng's escape from extended illegal home confinement," said Commission Chairman Chris Smith, who held an emergency hearing in November 2011 to determine Chen's unknown status. "I hope that he is safe as his supporters have indicated. At the same time, I remain extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of Chen's family members who continue to be held under home confinement, as well as those who have assisted him. I strongly reiterate and support Chen's demands addressed to Premier Wen Jiabao, that he 1) Thoroughly investigate and punish according to the law those who ordered the poor treatment of Chen and his family; 2) Ensure the safety of Chen's wife, mother, and children, according to the law; 3) Investigate and punish official corruption like what has been taking place in Linyi village, related to Chen's home confinement. I call upon the Chinese government to immediately comply with Chen's demands imperative to his, his family, and his supporters' security and welfare." Smith also wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about Chen and his family's safety. Click here to read the letter.
The Congressional-Executive Commission on the People's Republic of China is a congressionally-mandated, bipartisan panel made up of Members of the House and Senate and Presidential appointees serving in the Obama Administration.
Smith's ongoing attempts in 2011 and 2012 to have the China Commission visit Chen have been thwarted by the Chinese government. In November 2011, Smith sent a letter to China's Ambassador to the U.S., Ambassador Zhang Yesui, requesting assistance to travel to China in January 2012. Smith also chaired a commission hearing on Dec. 13 that included Chen's precarious situation titled "Ten Years in the WTO: Has China Kept Its Promises?", as well as a Dec. 7 hearing on imprisoned activist and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, and testified at a Nov. 3 hearing on the tenth annual human rights review and analysis of China's worsening human rights record. He also testified on Dec. 2 before the House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement about his legislation, H.R. 2121, to deny senior Chinese leadership entry into the United States.
His most recent hearing on Feb. 14 called on Vice President Xi Jinping, China's leader-in-waiting then visiting the White House to release political prisoners.
Chinese police have consistently blocked international media and human rights groups from visiting Chen. Recent media reports cite beatings and detentions of courageous Chinese activists trying to reach his house. There has been a sharp deterioration of human rights in China, even as dictatorships have given way to popular uprisings around the world. China's abysmal record of crushing religious freedom, harassing and jailing political activists, stymieing workers rights, subjecting many unmarried pregnant women and women without birth permits to undergo forced abortions and forced sterilizations, suppressing the media, use of beatings and torture and other basic human rights violations have drawn concerns from the human rights community.
Time Magazine named Chen one of ""2006's Top 100 People Who Shape Our World," in the category of ""Heroes and Pioneers.'' In 2005 and 2006 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.