Forced abortion opponent Chen Guangcheng, a blind attorney, escaped house arrest — where brutal family planning officials had confined him for years after he exposed a massive campaign of forced abortions and sterilizations.
Since the daring rescue that apparently has allowed him to escape to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, news on Chen’s status and location have been hard to come by today.
The rescue comes ahead of a visit to China next 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.
The widely reported escape of well-known blind Chinese human rights defender Chen Guangcheng from illegal home confinement is being closely followed by members of Congress, including pro-life Congressman Chris Smith.
“I’m relieved to hear the reported news of human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng’s escape from extended illegal home confinement,” he said. ““I hope that he is safe as his supporters have indicated.”
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“At the same time, I remain extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of Chen’s family members who continue to be held under home confinement, as well as those who have assisted him. I strongly reiterate and support Chen’s demands addressed to Premier Wen Jiabao, that he 1) Thoroughly investigate and punish according to the law those who ordered the poor treatment of Chen and his family; 2) Ensure the safety of Chen’s wife, mother, and children, according to the law; 3) Investigate and punish official corruption like what has been taking place in Linyi village, related to Chen’s home confinement,” Smith added. “I call upon the Chinese government to immediately comply with Chen’s demands imperative to his, his family, and his supporters’ security and welfare.”
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.
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.