Emergency Hearing Held on China Activist Chen Guangcheng

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 1, 2011   |   7:31PM   |   Beijing, China

The unknown condition of Chen Guangcheng, a blind human rights lawyer being oppressed by the Chinese government for exposing a massive campaign of forced abortions and sterilizations, was the topic of an emergency hearing of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China this afternoon.

“As we sit here in this room today, free to meet, free to move, and free to speak our minds, we are convening to examine the plight of an extraordinarily brave man, and his equally courageous wife, who in every sense of the word is not free and at grave risk,” said Commission Chairman Chris Smith.

Smith continued:  “As we speak, we can only assume that self-taught lawyer Chen Guangcheng, a heroic advocate on behalf of victims of population planning abuses, languishes with his wife Yuan Weijing and six year old daughter Jane Doe, locked inside their home in rural Shandong province. However, we do not have the luxury of certainty regarding Chen’s or his family’s current whereabouts and medical condition, as Chinese officials have used barbaric methods to prevent all unauthorized persons from contacting or visiting their village.”

“The increasing inability to obtain any verified information about Chen’s status has led many to believe that the conditions and treatment for Chen and his wife, Yuan Weijing, who have already endured inexplicably harsh conditions, may actually have gotten worse—if that is possible. The Chinese authorities have gone into overdrive using every restrictive control in their attempt to silence Chen and Yuan. We are gravely concerned about Chen’s status and urge Chinese officials to not only provide the proof that neither he nor his family have been harmed but also set them free. The continued lack of information about their well-being must end,” Smith said.

Senator Sherrod Brown, the Cochairman of the Commission, also commented on Chen’s status.

“We are extremely concerned about the conditions under which Chen Guangcheng and his family are being held by the government. We are also aware of reports indicating that government officials are building a separate facility outside the family’s home, and that they plan to move Chen and his wife into this facility soon for enhanced security. We are especially concerned about the effect this control is having on the entire family, including Chen and Yuan’s young daughter. We join Chinese citizens in demanding immediate transparency and explanation from the Chinese government regarding his case,” he said.

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 and then convicted him on trumped-up charges. Chen served over four years in prison, despite serious health issues. Foreign reporters attempting to enter his village have been beaten and driven off.

Smith (R-NJ) is chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on the People’s Republic of China, a congressionally-mandated, bipartisan panel made up of Members of the House and Senate and Presidential appointees serving in the Obama Administration.

Commission Member Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) also participated at the hearing, which featured witnesses Jerome A. Cohen, Professor, NYU School of Law, Co-director, U.S.-Asia Law Institute and Adjunct Senior Fellow for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations;  Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China (HRIC); Professor of Law Emerita, City University of NY School of Law, and; Chai Ling, Founder, All Girls Allowed.

The plight of Chen Guangcheng and his family continues to attract attention inside and outside China. Chen is a self-trained legal advocate who has represented farmers, the disabled, and other groups.

In deeply flawed legal proceedings, authorities sentenced him in 2006 to four years and three months in prison for, among other things, “organizing a group of people to disturb traffic order.” While imprisoned Chen was reportedly beaten by fellow inmates and denied medical treatment.

Following his release in September 2010, Chen, his wife Yuan Weijing, and their six-year-old daughter have faced stifling conditions of home confinement and constant surveillance. Chen and Yuan reportedly have been beaten since being released, and until recently their daughter was denied schooling. Chen’s health also remains in doubt as he suffers from a digestive disorder.

Authorities have continued to employ violence to prevent the growing numbers of journalists and supporters from visiting the family. Online campaigns in support of Chen have also sprung up in China, yet the government has censored terms that relate to him or his case. Witnesses examined why the Chinese government has not permitted access to information regarding Chen Guangcheng’s circumstances and well-being nor permitted visitors to see Chen. Witnesses also examined the criminal procedure violations related to Chen’s current detention under an illegal form of “house arrest” and Chen’s access to legal counsel.

In China, in response to two beatings Chen and his family have endured and concerns that the activist may have been killed, citizens have started a sunglasses campaign to show solidarity with Chen. Because Chen always wears sunglasses, supporters inside China have been taking photos of themselves wearing sunglasses and posting it on a website. That campaign has expanded worldwide.