Chen in 'de facto house arrest' at hospital

Baptist Press
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Posted: May 16, 2012 4:22 PM
Chen in 'de facto house arrest' at hospital
WASHINGTON (BP) -- Chinese human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng remains under "de facto house arrest" in a Beijing hospital with his wife and two children despite his desire to travel to the United States, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith said May 15.

Bob Fu of the U.S.-based China Aid Association testified in a subcommittee hearing that when Chen's two lawyers attempted to visit him in the hospital both were beaten and one lost hearing in one ear.

Chen spoke via phone to the House congressional panel that oversees international human rights, expressing concern for his family and supporters in China, particularly his brother and nephew who have been violently beaten.

At the hearing, Smith reiterated Chen's value to the cause of human rights in China.

"Chen Guangcheng is among the bravest defenders of women's rights in the world," Smith, R.-N.J., said. "Chen defended thousands of women from the ongoing, most egregious systematic state-sponsored exploitation and abuse of women in human history -- pervasive forced abortion and involuntary sterilization as part of China's one child per couple policy -- and has suffered torture, cruel and degrading treatment, unjust incarceration and multiple beatings as a result."

The magnitude of the exploitation of women in China has been largely overlooked, trivialized and even enabled by world leaders, Smith said. He also expressed a desire to keep international focus on Chen's case until it is favorably resolved.

Although the Chinese government said May 4 that Chen may apply to study abroad and the U.S. State Department confirmed that he had been offered a fellowship from an American university, the process appears stalled.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said May 15 all of the processing on the U.S. side has been completed for Chen, his wife and his two children.

"We are ready when he and his government are ready. We have been for more than a week now in terms of his visa to come pursue his studies," Nuland said. "He is continuing to work with his government. Our information is that those conversations, contacts and processing continue. And we've been in regular contact with him two or three times a day, every day."

Chen was under the impression his application for a passport was made last Sunday when he was visited by a Chinese official, Smith said, but Chen has not been notified of any further action on the application.

"With the exception of the half-hour each morning and afternoon that the children are escorted outside by one of the nurses, he and his family are not allowed to leave the hospital and no one is allowed inside to see them," Smith said.

Chen, a 41-year-old self-trained human rights lawyer, was imprisoned for more than four years because of his activism and then was put under house arrest. He escaped April 22 and sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for six days before being transferred to the hospital.

Smith is "extremely concerned" for Chen's welfare, as well as that of his family.

"Following his escape from house arrest, Chinese officials started breaking into the homes of his family in the same village and rounding up those who may have assisted him for interrogations," Smith said at the May 15 hearing. "When local officials and thugs broke into the home of Mr. Chen's brother, Mr. Chen's nephew, Chen Kegui, reportedly tried to defend himself with a kitchen knife. He is now in a police detention center."

Fu, in his testimony, said, "What I want to make clear to the American government and the American people is this: Do not be easily misled and deceived." He added that implementation of the agreement between the U.S. and China on Chen's future is far more important than the agreement itself.

"I hope that Congress will do more in monitoring and urging the Obama administration to ensure that the civil rights of Chen Guangcheng and his family members are protected by law," Fu said. "... His conscience, courage and spirit been like a light shining in the long dark night of defending human rights in China."

Chen, speaking to the panel through a translator, said, "I want to extend my gratitude and thankfulness to all those who care and love my family and myself and our situation, especially to the American people who show they care about the policies and justice -- those are universal values -- I am very, very grateful to all of you.

"I'm not a hero. I am just doing what my conscience asks me to do. I cannot be silent. I cannot be quiet when facing this evil against women and children. This is what I should do," Chen said.

Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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