Chinese officials have allowed forced abortion opponent Chen Guangcheng to apply to leave the country and study abroad at a university in the United States — in what is the first sign of good news that Chen may escape the persecution he is facing there.
China’s Foreign Ministry posted a short blurb on its web site earlier Friday saying Chen could apply to join the more than 300,000 Chinese people who go abroad to study at foreign colleges and universities. Chen is a self-taught attorney and has said he would like to receive formal education to supplement that.
In the original deal the United States struck with China, before Chen learned his family and his own life may be in grave danger should he stay in China and before he requested diplomatic help from the United States to leave the country, China would have agreed to allow Chen to study at one of its universities rather than going back to his hometown where he was under house arrest by family planning officials.
The Chinese spokesman, Liu Weimin, said Chen could submit an application to study abroad and “can apply through normal channels to the relevant departments in accordance with the law, just like any other Chinese citizen.”
Later, at a press briefing, the Associated Press indicates Liu said he was certain that “competent Chinese authorities will handle his application in accordance with the law.”
Although Chen could apply, there is no guarantee China will approve the application and his status could remain as uncertain as it is now. In fact, the Los Angeles Times reports that it could be weeks, if not months, before China approves Chen’s request to leave — if it approves the request at all.
“It is also uncertain whether Chen will be obliged to return to his home town to apply for papers, as is legally required. Chen probably won’t want to do that, activists said, because of past mistreatment at the hands of local authorities,” the newspaper says.
Victoria Nuland, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman, says China has allowed Chen to submit the application and could travel to the United States with his wife and children.
“The Chinese Government stated today that Mr. Chen Guangcheng has the same right to travel abroad as any other citizen of China. Mr. Chen has been offered a fellowship from an American university, where he can be accompanied by his wife and two children,” Nuland said.
“The Chinese Government has indicated that it will accept Mr. Chen’s applications for appropriate travel documents. The United States government expects that the Chinese government will expeditiously process his applications for these documents, and make accommodations for his current medical condition. The United States government would then give visa requests for him and his immediate family priority attention,” she added. “This matter has been handled in the spirit of a cooperative U.S.-China partnership.”
Chen himself said whether China agrees to uphold the deal will be “a test of whether my civil liberties are being fulfilled.”
“The Chinese government has promised to guarantee my civil liberties. Is this not a breakthrough? But its implementation is very important. It must be fully implemented, and this has not happened yet,” he said.
Later, Hillary Clinton released a statement saying the U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke, spoke with Chen on Friday and she applauded the Chinese for allowing Chen to apply to come to the United States.
“Over the course of the day progress has been made to help him have the future that he wants and we will be staying in touch with him as this process moves forward,” she said. “This is not just about well known activists; it’s about the human rights and aspirations of more than a billion people here in China and billions more around the world and it’s about the future of this great nation and all nations.”
“He confirms that he and his family now want to go to the United States so that he can pursue his studies,” Clinton said.
She also said China officials are allowing Americans regular access to Chen now and American doctors to inspect his injuries.
AP reports the deal is not finalized and obstacles still remain.
“Obstacles to getting Chen out of China remain. Key among then is whether he would have to return to his home county in Shandong province to apply for a passport. Though a usual procedure, it would potentially expose him to retribution from the local officials who kept him and his family under brutal house arrest for his activism that exposed forced abortions and other misdeeds,” it said.
Before this information surfaced, Chen conveyed through a friend a four point statement saying that, while he does not seek political asylum in the United States, he had been invited to attend New York University and hoped “to go to the United States and rest for several months.” As AP reports, “That would give Chinese officials a face-saving opportunity to allow Mr. Chen and his family to leave China in the same manner as do scores of thousands of Chinese students every year, according to Jerome A. Cohen, a New York attorney and expert on Chinese law who discussed the proposal with Mr. Chen this week.”
Since Chen left the U.S. Embassy, American officials have been prevented from seeing him at a Beijing hospital, where he is receiving medical attention for a fractured leg he sustained while scaling a wall in his hometown to escape the house arrest he was paced in after being released from prison on trumped up charges invented to keep him from further exposing China’s campaign of forced abortions to enforce its one-child policy. U.S. officials, on Friday, hoped to get a care package to Chen but were forced to leave it outside.
AP indicates the Obama administration is beginning to acknowledge it failed in its efforts to fully help Chen.
“Senior American officials have privately acknowledged missteps by diplomats rushing to wrap up negotiations on the Chen case before two days of economic and security talks, led by Mrs. Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. Those included a failure to guarantee access to Mr. Chen at the hospital or to gain firm assurances from Chinese officials on how he would be treated,” it reported.
That has been exacerbated by the fact that Chen has said the Obama Administration failed to fully assist him or provide him full information he needed to make good decisions about his future.
Chen told AP that men are following his wife and recording her movements on video and he said any conversations he has on the phone with American officials are cut off as soon as guards learn he is speaking to them.
“The U.S. Embassy treated me well,” he said, “but the U.S. government was not proactive enough.”
Meanwhile, friends and supporters of Chen who have been missing are beginning to reappear on the scene. He Peirong, an activist who helped Chen escape, had been missing until today, when she reported on Twitter that she is back home safely. AP indicates other activists have not been so lucky.
“But a second close friend, Jiang Tianyong, said in an interview Friday that plainclothes police abducted him, interrogated him through the night and beat him, badly damaging his hearing, after he attempted to visit Mr. Chen in the hospital early Thursday evening. A third dissident, Liu Yanping, was also detained Friday after she attempted to deliver a birthday cake to Mr. Chen’s son at the Chaoyang Hospital,” it reported.
Yesterday, Chen Guangcheng spoke live via telephone at an emergency Congressional hearing in the U.S. House about his situation and how he desires to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
At the end of a hearing, in which several top activists fighting for human rights and freedom for Chen and his supporters pressing the case against forced abortions, Bob Fu, the president of ChinaAid, got Chen on the phone for the members of Congress in attendance to hear. fter the witnesses had all testified, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) asked if anyone had been in touch with Chen since Wednesday. A short time later, Fu and CECC chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ) telephoned Chen and were able to have him speak directly to the hearing.
Chen, from a room at the hospital where he is getting medical care, told members of the panel that he wanted to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and that he hoped he could get help from her and meet her face to face to talk about his situation. Chen said he did not realize the extent of the danger he faces until he left the U.S. Embassy.
“I want to meet with Secretary Clinton. I hope I can get more help from her,” he said.
Chen told the panel he is worried about the safety of his family, his brothers and supporters who helped rescue him from home detention. He said immediately after he was discovered missing, his daughter was banned from going to school.
Chen expressed his desire to leave China with his family, but made it clear that he thought of it as only a temporary measure so that he could “rest.” He did not say anything about seeking political asylum.
“I want to come to the US to rest. I have not had a rest in 10 years,” he said. “I’m concerned most right now with the safety of my mother and brothers. I really want to know what’s going on with them.”
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Congressman Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, told Chen, “You have a panel of people who have testified on your behalf who are all here on behalf of your family, your nephew.”
Smith added, “Word is getting out, and your case is the test of Chinese commitment to protect you — which they were very dubious about those assurances. It is also a test of the United States about whether human rights really matter. You and your family and supporters should be on a plane to the United States.
“Chen we are all praying for you and we will be unceasing in our efforts to secure your freedom,” Smith said. “This phone call absolutely underscores why we’re here.”
“I want to thank all of you for your care and for your love,” Chen responded.
Earlier this week, Chen eft the U.S. Embassy and headed to a local hospital for medical treatment following his years of house arrest by family planning and Communist Party officials. Late last week, Chen fled his hometown after escaping and supporters drove him to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing after they were unable to keep him safe in homes in the Asian nation’s capital. When Chinese authorities attempted to apprehend him, he fled to the U.S. Embassy for protection.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is coming under criticism from Speaker John Boehner and others, who say they are concerned about Chen’s situation and reports showing Chen may have felt pressure to leave the Embassy after learning of threats against his family. Boehner issued a statement in response to reports showing the Obama Administration released forced abortion opponent Chen Guangcheng from the U.S. Embassy despite threats against him and his family.
Chen and his supporters in China had not originally intended for Chen to go to the American Embassy in Beijing. They initially put him up in various homes of backers living in the Beijing area until family planning and Communist Party officials found out about his location and chased his backers in a vehicle — forcing them to make the decision to head for the embassy.
In a daring rescue attempt, human rights campaigners helped Chen escape his home confinement and took him to an, at the time, undisclosed location in Beijing — reportedly the U.S embassy. 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.
China’s state-run media initially said absolutely nothing about the daring escape Chen Guangcheng made from his house arrest, where family planning and Communist Party officials had kept him detained at home for exposing forced abortions. Other media outlets have glossed over the forced abortion components of Chen’s imprisonment and house arrest.
What is not in dispute is the fact that the Chines government has subjected men and women to forced abortions, sterilziations, home detention and imprisonment, taken away their jobs and benefits and fined them for violating the nation’s one child policy. As the world watches the plight of Chen Guangcheng and wonders whether President Barack Obama will have the United States offer him long-term diplomatic protection, documents Chen Guangcheng compiled place the focus squarely on why China subjected him to years of house arrest: brutal forced abortions.
Reggie Littlejohn, President of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, has released a compendium of Chen Guangcheng’s field notes about forced abortion and sterilization in China and the stories the blind attorney compiled are shocking, even for those familiar with the forced abortion abuses that take place as a result of China’s one-child policy.
“In the astonishment surrounding Chen Guangcheng’s extraordinary escape from house arrest, let us not forget why he was arrested,” Littlejohn told LifeNews. “In 2006, Chen exposed the Chinese government’s systematic, massive use of forced abortion and involuntary sterilization to enforce its “One Child Policy.’”
WRWF obtained a copy of Chen’s field notes and has released the first English translation of them.
“A member of Chen’s team, human rights attorney Teng Biao, drafted this 2005 investigative report into coercive family planning in Linyi City, Shandong Province,” Littlejohn explained. “The report contains extensive witness statements from cases Chen and his team were investigating before Chen was jailed.”