Likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney called on President Barack Obama today to provide any diplomatic protection possible for Chinese forced abortion opponent Chen Guangcheng, who escaped house arrest this past week.
Chen, a blind attorney, had been in captivity at his home after spending years in prison after he was convicted in trumped-up charges engineered by family planning and Communist Party officials for retaliation against his exposing a massive brutal campaign in his local county involving the victimization of thousands in forced abortions and sterilizations.
In a daring rescue attempt, human rights campaigners helped Chen escape his home confinement and took him to an undisclosed location in Beijing — reportedly the U.S embassy — but the Obama administration has given no indication of whether it will provide Chen with political asylum or other diplomatic protection. Leading pro-life campaigners and human rights groups are concerned that if Chen is not protected, Chinese officials may illegally detain him and send him back to prison, home detention or may take his life.
“My concern at this moment is for the safety of Chen Guangcheng and his family,” he said. “My hope is that U.S. officials will take every measure to ensure that Chen and his family members are protected from further persecution.”
Romney continued, “This event points to the broader issue of human rights in China. Any serious U.S. policy toward China must confront the facts of the Chinese government’s denial of political liberties, its one-child policy, and other violations of human rights. Our country must play a strong role in urging reform in China and supporting those fighting for the freedoms we enjoy.”
Late Friday, Congressman Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican who is the head of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus and has chaired hearings on Chen’s bogus imprisonment and the extensive forced abortion and sterilization campaign he exposed, released a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to LifeNews calling for her to protect Chen.
“I also respectfully ask that you take all other available diplomatic measures to ensure the safety and freedom of Mr. Chen and his family,” Smith said in the letter.
“I remain extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of Mr. Chen’s family members who continue to be held under home confinement, as well as those who have assisted him. The fact that government officials have repeatedly and severely beaten Mr. Chen, his wife, and his mother during his house arrest, in addition to denying him adequate medical treatment and nutrition in spite of his fragile and deteriorating health, gives rise to justifiable reports that his family members and others associated with him are now in danger,” Smith said.
“As you are aware Madame Secretary, Mr. Chen has demanded through a video released on the Internet that Premier Wen Jiabao: 1) thoroughly investigate and punish according to the law those who ordered the abusive treatment of Mr. Chen and his family; 2) ensure the safety of Mr. Chen’s wife, mother, and children; and 3) investigate and punish official corruption related to Mr. Chen’s home confinement in Linyi village. I would strongly encourage you to reiterate and express our country’s support for these demands to the Premier,” he continued.
Smith concluded: “I would request that you raise the issue of all harassed, arrested, disappeared, and disbarred human rights lawyers and defenders with the Chinese Government on an on-going basis and link this issue to the United States’ interests in the rule of law and respect for human rights generally in China.”
The rescue comes ahead of a visit to China this week by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and the fact that Chen is currently at the Embassy could make the visit more tenuous or it could provide political cover for the United States to provide him asylum or other diplomatic assistance.
Bob Fu, president of the U.S.-based Christian human-rights group ChinaAid, who originally reported the details of Chen’s escape earlier today, told the Wall St. Journal Chen is now in Beijing in a “100% safe location.” He said ChinaAid acted as a “facilitator” in the escape and briefed the U.S. government and diplomats on what happened.
“I can’t say more as there might be some diplomatic issues,” he said, but added, “If you ask any Chinese person where the safest place in Beijing is, they’ll all think the same thing. Even Wang Lijun had a similar idea.”
Neither the White House nor State Department would confirm that the U.S. was protecting Chen in Beijing, the Journal reported. However, if he is currently enjoying protection from the United States, the Obama administration will be hard-pressed to not continue protecting him as Chen would undoubtedly face potential harm, including death, if the United States refuses to continue the protection and Chinese officials unlawfully detain him.
Chinese police have consistently blocked international media and human rights groups from visiting Chen. Recent media reports cite beatings and detentions of courageous Chinese activists trying to reach his house.
Smith said there has been a sharp deterioration of human rights in China, even as dictatorships have given way to popular uprisings around the world.
“China’s abysmal record of crushing religious freedom, harassing and jailing political activists, stymieing workers rights, subjecting many unmarried pregnant women and women without birth permits to undergo forced abortions and forced sterilizations, suppressing the media, use of beatings and torture and other basic human rights violations have drawn concerns from the human rights community,” he said.
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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.
In a video address to China’s Premier Wen Jiabao, Chen described the repeated beatings he suffered and expressed concerned for his family. A CNN report, below, featured an English translation of the video and more details about the daring escape.
“Although I’m free, my worries are only deepening,” he said. “My wife, mother and children are still in their evil hands. They have been persecuting my family for a long time and my escape would only prompt them into a mode of revenge.”
“They broke into my house and more than a dozen men assaulted my wife,” he said. “They pinned her down and wrapped her in a comforter, beating and kicking her for hours. They also similarly violently assaulted me.”
“Those people stand at the four corners of my house, spy on my family and monitor what we do,” he said. “They installed floodlights and surveillance cameras around my house.”