Chen Guangcheng Leaves China on Flight for United States

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 19, 2012   |   10:16AM   |   Washington, DC

After a second Congressional hearing, during which he called to update members of Congress on the current status of his tenuous situation in China, forced abortion opponent Chen Guangcheng has finally been granted his visa request to leave China for the United States.

Chen had languished in a Chinese hospital since American officials reportedly agreed to a deal with Chinese leaders to allow Chen to come to the United States to study and escape the nation that imprisoned him and forced him to endure house arrest for years because he exposed and helped the victims of a massive forced abortion and sterilization campaign in his hometown of Linyi.

Chen eventually received passport applications for himself and his family and has been told that local officials in Shandong province will get him the necessary papers to leave the country. Now, according to a New York Times report, that has happened as Chen, his wife Yuan Weijing, six-year-old daughter, and small son boarded United Airlines Flight 88 for Newark, New Jersey.

Chen and his family departed around 5:30 p.m. on a United Airlines flight after facing earlier delays. The Chens, accompanied by American officials, were brought onto the plane shortly before takeoff and seated in the business-class cabin. Flight attendants drew a curtain around their seats and barred other passengers in the cabin from using the toilet while the plane was on the runway.

In a statement, American officials obliquely praised the Chinese government for its cooperation in resolving what had become a diplomatic headache for both sides. “We also express our appreciation for the manner in which we were able to resolve this matter and to support Mr. Chen’s desire to study in the U.S. and pursue his goals,” Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman said.

Speaking by cellphone before he boarded the flight, Mr. Chen told friends he was excited to leave China but that he was also worried about the fate of relatives left behind. “He’s happy to finally have a rest after seven years of suffering, but he’s also worried they will suffer some retribution,” said Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid, a Christian advocacy group in Texas that championed Mr. Chen’s case.

Mr. Fu, who spoke to Mr. Chen several times on Saturday, said the family had no idea they were leaving — or where they were going — until officials notified them to pack up their few belongings.

They were driven directly to Beijing International Airport by employees of Chaoyang Hospital, where Mr. Chen was being treated for intestinal problems and for the foot he broke during his escape. Mr. Chen told friends that he and his family were handed their passports by Chinese officials shortly before they boarded the plane.

The family waited for their flight in an area separated from other passengers. Airline officials increased security on the flight, and reporters were told they would not be able to speak to Mr. Chen during the 13-hour trip to Newark.

The forced abortion opponent told Channel 4 News, about his leaving China, “I feel a bit sad. For many reasons. It’s not that I can’t describe how I feel but how I feel is so complicated.”

“Right now I don’t have any plans,” he said.

The move from the hospital to the airport was abrupt, Chen says:  “At around 10.30am the hospital suddenly informed us that we had to go to the airport. So I got ready to leave. It’s as simple as that.”

Congressman Chris Smith, a pro-life New Jersey Republican, plans to meet Chen at the airport when his plane lands.

“After years of enduring physical and psychological torture, imprisonment, and hate, the man, Chen Guangcheng, who defended Chinese women from the crime of forced abortion is finally free,” Smith told LifeNews. “America welcomes this extraordinary family with open arms.”

“Joined by his equally heroic wife, Yuan Weijing, and their children, the Chens will finally get to rest, recuperate, and recover. His children can now begin the process of healing from emotional trauma no child should ever endure,” he said.

“Great human rights leaders are never separated from the noble causes they espoused. Think of Lech Walesa and Solidarity, Nelson Mandela and opposition to apartheid, Aung San Suu Chi and democracy in Burma. Chen’s cause is ending China’s One Child Policy and forced abortion. Not all the Chens are free and safe, however. The Chinese government must immediately end its deplorable retaliation against Chen’s family and friends who remain in China.”

In China, Chen documented 7,000 such forced abortion cases, taking down the names and addresses of those women who were victimized, as well as the particulars of the officials who committed these crimes. That is why the Chinese Communist Party is so eager to silence Chen. Not only has he exposed their crimes against the Chinese people, he has at least the potential to generate massive protests against the brutal one-child policy.

The 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.”

The blind Chinese human rights lawyer, who caught the attention of the world over the past two weeks in his bid to escape house arrest in China by seeking help in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, testified to Congress via telephone about his well-being and that of his family and brave supporters Tuesday at a hearing held by Congressman Chris Smith,a New Jersey Republican.

“Chen Guangcheng is among the bravest defenders of women’s rights in the world,” Smith said. “Chen defended thousands of women from the ongoing, most egregious systematic state-sponsored exploitation and abuse of women in human history — pervasive forced abortion and involuntary sterilization as part of China’s one child per couple policy — and has suffered torture, cruel and degrading treatment, unjust incarceration, and multiple beatings as a result.”

Smith added:  “The sheer magnitude of this exploitation of women has been largely overlooked and trivialized by many — and even enabled. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has for over 30 years supported, defended, and whitewashed the crimes against women and children Chen struggled to expose. That’s why President Reagan and more recently President Bush defunded the UNFPA. In an indefensible reversal, the Obama Administration has provided approximately $165 million to the UNFPA.”

After listening to a panel of witnesses testify on human rights abuses in China, Smith announced contact with Chen was made to allow him to phone in to the hearing.

“Mr. Chen, you are on — welcome back,” said Smith, Chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees international human rights. The event was broadcast live by CSPAN.

“I just want to talk about what had happened to my other family members after I escaped from my own home,” Chen told the panel through a translator. “On April 26th around midnight, there was a group of thugs [of] the Chinese local authorities, [who] just broke into my home, and started beating them violently. And my elder brother was taken away by these thugs and without any reasoning, and then they came back and started beating up on my nephew, Chen Kegui. They used sticks and violently beat him up. For three hours he was bleeding on his head and face — it would not stop.”

Smith likened Chen’s confinement at a Beijing hospital to house arrest as Chen awaits documentation to travel to the U.S. with his wife and two children. He said the hearing was intended to focus on Chen’s cause.



Smith said:  “Following his escape from house arrest, Chinese officials started breaking into the homes of his family in the same village and rounding up those who may have assisted him for interrogations,” Smith said at the hearing. “When local officials and thugs broke into the home of Mr. Chen’s brother, Mr. Chen’s nephew, Chen Kegui reportedly tried to defend himself with a kitchen knife. He is now in a police detention center.  I am extremely concerned for his welfare, as well as that of Mr. Chen’s other extended family members. Now, eleven days later, Mr. Chen is still in the same hospital room, with his wife and two children under de facto house arrest.”

When Smith asked him if the U.S. Embassy had been able to make contact with extended family and friends who are at risk, Chen said, “I’m not very clear on the specifics,” but that the U.S. embassy has been communicating with him every day. “Because my wife and children have been under such a long time of difficulties with malnutrition, low blood pressure, when I see them under these circumstances, I felt very saddened.”

“I want to extend my gratitude and thankfulness to all those who care and love my family and myself and our situation, especially to the American people who show they care about the policies and justice — those are universal values — I am very, very grateful to all of you,” Chen said. “I’m not a hero. I am just doing what my conscience asks me to do. I cannot be silent. I cannot be quiet when facing this evil against women and children. This is what I should do.”

The hearing, entitled, “Chen Guangcheng: His Case, Cause, Family, and Those Who are Helping Him,” featured human rights leaders determined to assist Chen by speaking out at an open hearing of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights.

In an unplanned live call-in to a May 3rd hearing of the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Chen testified by phone about his concerns. Within hours, the Chinese government announced that Chen could apply to travel to the United States.

As he did May 3rd, Bob Fu, himself a former political prisoner and now Founder and President of the ChinaAid Association, made contact with Chen during the hearing.

“Recently, when lawyers Jiang Tianyong and Teng Biao tried to visit Chen Guangcheng in hospital, they were both beaten and Jiang lost the hearing in one ear,” said Bob Fu. Fu told the panel that despite the fact that the two sides have reached a well publicized agreement on Chen’s freedom and security, Chen remains under house arrest in hospital, and his visitors are barred, tailed and beaten.  “Chen Guangcheng has paid an extremely heavy price to defend the rights of the disadvantaged groups who were the victims of coercive population control measures (mainly women).  His conscience, courage and spirit has been like a light shining in the long dark night of China’s human rights, and also inspiring people around the world who are struggling for human rights and justice.”

Wei Jingsheng, a former political prisoner and today Founder and Chair of Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition, cautioned the panel about the challenges when negotiating with the Chinese Communist regime Wei said: “They are only restrained by their interests, but not bound by their promises. That is because, fundamentally, they do not recognize common knowledge and reason, but only their great ideals.”

Mei Shunping, who became pregnant a number of times but was forced to have multiple abortions at the hands of the Chinese government, testified to the brutality of the one child policy which destroyed her life and marriage.

She said, “In 1999, I escaped the country that humiliated and destroyed me, and came to the free soil of America.”

Reggie Littlejohn, Founder and President, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, briefed the subcommittee on the treatment of two prominent activists who are supporters of Chen: He Peirong, who was instrumental in Chen’s escape, and Jiang Tianyong, a key member of Chen’s legal team. Both have suffered harassment.

“Although Pearl and Jiang appear safe for the moment, who knows whether the Chinese Communist Party will retaliate against them once Chen comes to the United States,” Littlejohn said. “Women’s Rights Without Frontiers calls upon the United States Congress and the Department of State to raise the issue of the safety of Chen’s supporters, who are heroes in their own right.”

Tiananmen Square Massacre student activist and founder of All Girls Allowed Chai Ling also testified before the subcommittee.

“Incredibly, U.S. officials fretted about the timing of Chen’s arrival at the Embassy,” Chai said. “After he left, they downplayed his concerns for his family’s safety. Several days ago, an American official casually told the New York Times: ‘The days of blowing up the relationship [with China] over a single guy are over.’ Seeking genuine protections for Chen and his family should hardly have ‘blown up the relationship.’ But more to the point, it grieves me to hear Chen dismissively referred to as ‘a single guy.’ He is one man; it is true. But he is a symbol — a hero — in the eyes of women, children, and the poor in China.”