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Chen Guangcheng tells Congress he wants US sanctuary
By Michelle Bauman
Rep. Chris Smith speaks during the emergency hearing on Recent Developments and History of the Chen Guangcheng Case on May 3, 2012.
Rep. Chris Smith speaks during the emergency hearing on Recent Developments and History of the Chen Guangcheng Case on May 3, 2012.

.- The blind Chinese pro-life activist Chen Guangcheng has confirmed that he wants to leave his country for the United States and is asking the Obama administration to help him.

Chen Guangcheng testified via phone May 3 for an emergency hearing of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. Speaking from his room in Beijing’s Chaoyang Hospital with the help of a translator, he said that he wants to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“I hope I can get more help from her,” he said.

Chen also requested that his freedom of travel be guaranteed. He said that he wants to come to the United States to rest because he has not been able to rest for the last decade.

His biggest concern right now, he said, is the safety of his brother and elderly mother, whose condition he has not been able to confirm.

Other witnesses at the congressional hearing testified about the brutality used by the Chinese government against those who disagree with its policies, as well as the U.S. government’s handling of the situation.

They pointed out that Chen’s plight falls within the broader problem of human rights abuses within the country. 

Chen’s advocacy work has made him the target of government persecution. He spent more than four years in prison and was then placed under house arrest, where he says that he and his family members were beaten and refused medical treatment.

After more than a year and a half under house arrest, Chen escaped and was transported on April 26 by friends to Beijing, where he was transferred to U.S. protection. His escape from house arrest occurred just before Clinton and other diplomatic officials arrived in the country for previously scheduled meetings. 

On May 2, American officials announced that an agreement had been reached and that Chen had left the American Embassy in Beijing for a local hospital, where he was receiving medical treatment and had been reunited with his wife and two children.

According to U.S. officials, the Chinese government had promise to treat Chen humanely and allow him to move with his family to a safe place in the country to pursue higher education.

However, recent media interviews with Chen indicated that he was scared for the safety of his family and wanted to leave the country.

Prior to today’s congressional hearing, some of the official witnesses spoke about Chen’s situation at a press conference at the D.C.-based Heritage Foundation.

Bob Fu, president of the Texas-based human rights group ChinaAid, said that he had talked to Chen the previous night and he was crying and felt “isolated.”

Chen said that he was told that if he did not leave the embassy on May 2, he should not expect to be reunited with his family.

He had felt “pressured” to leave the embassy, Fu said, and that he had no other option because he did not want to abandon his family to be tortured.
 
Fu questioned the U.S. government’s handling of the situation, asking why Chen’s family had not been brought to the embassy so that they could all safely discuss their future.

Reggie Littlejohn, an expert on China’s one-child rule, believes that China is trying to make an example of Chen in order to show what happens to people who oppose its central policies.

The founder and president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, an organization that works to oppose forced abortions in China, Littlejohn also testified at the hearing.

She observed that in covering Chen’s plight, much of the mainstream media has ignored the cause for which he has been fighting.

Chen has worked to document “horrific” cases of human rights abuses relating to China’s one-child policy, she explained. He has spoken out against forced sterilizations and abortions, as well as other “untold suffering” that the policy brings to women, she said.

Alone in hospital, she said, Chen is in a “very, very vulnerable position.”

Littlejohn said that the United States has “very seriously mishandled this entire situation.”

She explained that the Chinese people have long considered the U.S. Embassy to be a safe place and are now feeling extremely “betrayed” that America would hand Chen back over to the Chinese government, which is not likely to keep its promises of treating him humanely.

The way that the United States has dealt with the situation has done “untold damage” to its reputation as human rights defender, Littlejohn said.

U.S. officials maintain that Chen had said that he wanted to remain in China and never asked to come to the United States. They acknowledge that he now seems to have had a “change of heart” and say that they are planning to discuss various options with him.


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