Witnesses warn of retribution against Chen Guangcheng’s family, friends

Rep Chris Smith receives testimony of Chinese human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng CNA500x315 US Catholic News 5 16 12 Rep. Chris Smith listens to testimony during the May 15, 2012 hearing on the plight of Chen Guangcheng.

A hearing before a U.S. House subcommittee on human rights discussed the current status of blind pro-life activist Chen Guangcheng, as well as his family, friends and the women he sought to protect from China’s brutal one-child policy.

Chen testified at the May 15 hearing from his hospital room in China. Speaking via phone through a translator, he said that he is “not a hero” but is simply following his conscience.

He also said that he is fearful for the well-being of his extended family members.

The hearing was chaired by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who leads the House congressional panel that oversees international human rights. It focused on the plight of Chen’s family and friends, as well as the brutalities under China’s one-child policy that he had worked to expose.

After documenting cases of forced abortion and sterilization throughout China, Chen was imprisoned for more than four years. He also spent more than a year and a half under illegal house arrest, where he says that he and his family members were beaten and refused medical treatment.

Chen escaped from house arrest and was transported by friends to Beijing, where he reached the U.S. Embassy on April 26. He was moved to the hospital on May 2, amid announcements of an agreement between American and Chinese officials for his humane treatment.

While the Chinese government has stated that Chen is free to apply for travel documents to leave the country, the blind activist has said that he is worried about the well-being of his extended family and friends, who may be the target of government retribution.

At the May 15 hearing, Bob Fu, founder and president of the Texas-based ChinaAid Association, voiced concerns over whether the Chinese government will follow through on its promise.

He explained that in the past two weeks, “there has been no substantive progress by the Chinese government toward allowing Chen to come to the United States.”

“The Chinese government has yet to issue him a passport, which means Chen Guangcheng has not been able to leave China,” he said.

Fu also drew attention to the plight of Chen’s brother and sister-in-law, who were both reportedly beaten by a mob that broke into their house shortly after Chen’s escape. Their son, Chen Kegui, was violently attacked and defended himself with a kitchen knife, injuring several of his attackers. He has been arrested and could face execution, despite the fact that he acted out of self-defense, Fu said.

“Almost all of the lawyers who were willing to handle Chen Kegui’s knifing case have lost their freedom of movement, or had their lawyer’s license revoked, or simply been kidnapped,” he reported.

Concerns over the plight of Chen’s supporters were also voiced by Reggie Littlejohn, founder and president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, an organization that works to oppose forced abortions in China.

She explained that Jiang Tianyong, a member of Chen’s legal team, attempted to visit Chen at the hospital and “was beaten so severely in the head that he may have lost hearing in one ear.”

Littlejohn also recounted the story of He Peirong, known as Pearl, who was detained and kept in custody after helping Chen escape. She was eventually released as international attention on her story increased.

Chinese mother Mei Shunping also testified at the hearing, describing the physical and emotional terror of undergoing five forced abortions due to the one-child policy.

Mei described herself as one of the women “that Chen Guangcheng tried to help so courageously.” She said that her life was “destroyed by the policy,” before she was able to escape and come to the United States in 1999.

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“We had no dignity as potential child-bearers,” she said.
After her fifth forced abortion, Mei said that the authorities acted without her knowledge or consent to implant an IUD in her uterus, despite the fact that she had a kidney disease, and the device therefore caused her great pain and physical suffering.

In addition, her husband was arrested and sentenced to criminal detention for protesting the policy.

Mei said that the strain caused by the enforcement of the one-child policy led to her divorce, depression and attempted suicide, before she found consolation and healing in the Christian faith. 
Rep. Smith called on the U.S. government to continue working on behalf of Chen, as well as his supporters and all the women who suffer under China’s one-child policy.

“The story, unfortunately, is far from over,” he said.

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