A top Republican in the U.S. House says the tenuous situation regarding forced abortion opponent Chen Guangcheng may not be over unless the Obama administration pushes China to accept Chen’s application to come to the United States.
The U.S. and China struck a tentative deal today that, if China approves, would allow the campaigner against the one-child policy to come to the United States to study as a visiting student.
But House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a pro-life Florida Republican, warns the Obama administration must get China to follow through on allowing Chen to leave the country.
“While China has reportedly agreed to let Chen leave, U.S. officials must not assume that Beijing will actually allow this to happen,” she said. “Only when Chen arrives on American soil and is granted political asylum will we know that this issue is resolved and his freedom and safety are assured.”
She also joined other lawmakers in criticizing the Obama administration for not providing Chen more information and seemingly rushing him out of the U.S. Embassy.
“U.S. officials made a mistake by escorting Chen away from the safety of the U.S. Embassy and into an uncertain fate,” she said. “To avoid another harmful error, the State Department must press China to carry out its commitments. We cannot assume that this saga has been resolved.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Chris Smith, the pro-life New Jersey Republican who held a hearing yesterday on Chen’s case, says he is worried for Chen’s extended family — even if the Chinese approve the deal.
“Let’s hope that [Chen] gets out, his wife gets out and their children, and then we move to the next step of ‘What about the rest of the family?’” he asked.
“Let’s not lose focus, and keep our eye on these individuals who, again, as soon as the lights go out — the media scrutiny, as well as other scrutiny seems to dissipate — the Chinese, if past is prologue, government will move aggressively against them,” he said, “and that is my greatest fear.”
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 he 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 them 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.
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. After 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 hearing 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.
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“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.”
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.”