The blind Chinese human rights defender Chen Guangcheng today surprised the world by testifying via telephone before the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, joining other human rights organizations around the world decrying human rights abuses associated with the Chinese government's brutal one-child policy that includes forced abortions and forced sterilizations, at a hearing held today by Commission Chairman Chris Smith (NJ-04).
Due to a timely phone call, Chen, who last week found refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Bejing to highlight his and his families' suffering at the hands of the Chinese government, testified at the hearing by speaking through a translator--former Chinese prisoner Bob Fu of ChinaAid. After leaving the embassy yesterday, Chen made a personal appeal to Smith for help through the media.
"I'm really afraid for my other family members lives," Chen said from his hospital room today. "I want to meet with Secretary Clinton, I hope I can get more help from her. I also want to thank her face-to-face. I really fear for my other family members lives."
Chen testified that his home has numerous video cameras surrounding it and an electric fence. Chen said he wanted "to make the request to have my freedom of travel guaranteed." He told Smith he wanted to come to the United States with his family, Smith said.
"The thing of most concern right now is the safety of my mother and brother; I really want to know what's going on with them," Chen said.
Smith told Chen that the hearing was being held with high hopes for his well being.
"You have a panel of people who have just testified on your behalf, all of whom deeply, deeply care about you and your family as well as those who helped you," Smith said. "I think the word is getting out and there are members of National and International press here, that your case is the test, the test, of Chinese commitment to protect you, which they've given--we're very dubious about those assurances--but also the test of the United States as to whether or not human rights really do matter. Your plea that the Secretary of State who did not meet with you in the embassy, go to your hospital room and meet with you. You and your family and your supporters need to be on a plane coming to the United States for, as you put it, that rest that you so richly deserve."
Smith also told Chen that Smith and actor Christian Bale had spoken earlier today, and relayed that Bale wished to "convey his solidarity and concern for your well being, and that of the rest of your family."
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 held an emergency hearing in November 2011 to determine Chen's unknown status.
"The developments in this Chen Guangcheng incident have shown the world that the Chinese Communist government is above the law, wantonly abusing an honest and law-abiding citizen," said Bob Fu Founder and President, ChinaAid Association. "At the same time, everyone has seen the inestimable conscience of Chen Guangcheng, his courageous fight for justice and human rights, and his indestructible hope. These events have also shown the world that this authoritarian regime which has engaged in a protracted struggle for the conscience of a blind man has been defeated." Click here to read Fu's statement.
Other human rights leaders to speak at the hearing were: Sophie Richardson, Ph.D., China Director, Human Rights Watch; T. Kumar Director, International Advocacy for Amnesty International; Wang Xuezhen, human rights advocate; Yaxue Cao, Human Rights Advocate, Blogger; Michael Horowitz, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute; Reggie Littlejohn, President, Women's Rights Without Frontiers.
"The daring escape of Chinese legal advocate Chen Guangcheng from illegal home confinement was nothing short of miraculous, and it has taken the world -- not to mention Chinese officials and Chen's guards themselves -- by complete surprise," said Smith, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "It was with great relief that I -- and millions around the world -- learned of his escape and his reaching safety at the American Embassy in Beijing on Friday morning. Yet it is with equally great concern that I convene this hearing. Having been handed over to Chinese officials by American diplomats yesterday, Chen, his wife Yuan and the rest of his family and friends appear to be in significant danger. The eyes of the world are watching to see that his wishes are honored by the Chinese government." Smith said. Click here to read Smith's opening remarks.
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.
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.