"The Obama Administration must do everything it can to ensure that Chen Guangcheng, his family members and all those who have helped him are removed from harm's way and do not suffer any further abuse or retaliation for Chen's bold and courageous efforts to save his family and improve human rights for all in China," says Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), a senior lawmaker in the U.S. House of Representatives and Chairman of the Congressional Executive Commission on China.
Chen, the blind, self-taught human rights attorney has been persecuted by Chinese authorities for years for his work exposing his government's brutal one-child-per-couple policy, mistreatment of disabled persons and other human rights abuses.
"The AP reports today that Chen now feels that it would be best for him and his family to be in a place outside China. He obviously needs our help," said Smith, a China expert in Congress.
Smith is holding an emergency hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday to "underscore and manifest our profound support for Chen and his family.
"Chen and his associates are at great risk if they stay in China," Smith said. "Even the hospital is a precarious place for this extraordinary human rights hero. The durable solution was, is and continues to be asylum," Smith said.
"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 reinterview 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.
The AP reported on Wednesday that Chen felt that he had been pressured to leave the U.S. Embassy and go to a hospital and he specifically asked that a "message be conveyed to U.S. Rep. Chris Smith.' "Help my family and I leave safely' Chen asked Smith.
"The Chinese Embassy has blocked my request for a visa to visit Chen since last October," Smith said. "I have been working to secure his safety for years.
"Now President Obama's foreign policy team is on the ground in China. They must seize this golden opportunity to help save Chen and his family and demonstrate to the world that the US stands firm for fundamental human rights and the rule of law.
"Trade talks are important but human rights are not "an irritant'--we have a duty to protect and defend," Smith said.
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.