Blind human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng, known for his daring night-time escape from Chinese secret police in 2012 and the subsequent international efforts to secure his freedom and move to the United States, testified in person for the first time before Chairman Chris Smith’s (NJ-04) global human rights subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives. It was a sharp contrast to Chen’s live call to Smith during a similar hearing on May 3, 2013 from a Chinese government hospital bed in China.
The hearing, entitled “Chen Guangcheng and Gao Zhisheng: Human Rights in China” also focused on Gao Zhisheng, a well-known jailed human rights lawyer in China.
“Last year at this time, my entire family was in the midst of grave danger,” Chen told the subcommittee. “At the end of April 2012, I escaped from the valley of the shadow of death, and after multiple twists and turns, I fled to the U.S. embassy in Beijing to seek emergency refuge from danger.
“We cannot continue to tolerate the Chinese Communist authorities continuing to go back on their words and deceiving the international community at will,” Chen said. “When the Chinese Communist Central Party Committee can act like this in breaking its promises to me, to the United States and to the whole world, and when it can willfully break agreements in a case that has attracted the world's attention, how can we expect it to improve the human rights situation in other areas and to take up its international responsibilities and obligations?” Click here to read Chen's written statement.
Smith noted the grave concern for Chen’s extended family in China.
“Cheng Guangcheng and his equally courageous wife Yuan Weijing have paid, and continue to pay an extraordinary high price for their benign defiance of a dictatorship that violates human rights with impunity and crushes human dignity,” said Smith, co-chair of the China Commission, senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chair of its subcommittee on global human rights. “Not only have the Chens endured numbing isolation and unspeakable torture over the course of several years, but now as we all know, in a pathetic display of PRC (People’s Republic of China) governmental revenge, Chen’s nephew Chen Kegui languishes in a Chinese prison while other family members remain at risk. Shockingly, young Chen Kegui has been brutally tortured and threatened, as Guangcheng notes today, with life imprisonment if he appeals his conviction.” Click here to read the Chairman’s opening remarks.
In addition to Chen, Bob Fu, Founder and President, ChinaAid Association; Geng He, wife of imprisoned human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng; Jared Genser, Founder of Freedom Now and international pro bono legal counsel to the Chen and Gao families, testified. Click here to read their statements before the subcommittee.
At two congressional hearings chaired by Smith on May 3 and May 15, 2012 (Click here to view video of the May 15 hearing. Click here to watch CSPAN video of Smith's May 3 hearing.) Chen testified by telephone and pleaded for the protection of his extended family—especially his mother, brother, and nephew—and friends. Smith also chaired an emergency hearing on Chen in Nov. 2011 at the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, when Chen’s well being could not be ascertained. The congressman nominated Chen for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, along with two other persecuted Chinese human rights advocates—Gao Zhisheng and Liu Xiaobo. Liu ultimately won the 2010 prize. Since November 2011, Smith had been repeatedly thwarted in his attempts to get a visa to travel to visit Chen by the Chinese government. From his hospital bed in China in May 2012, Chen appealed, through an AP reporter, for Smith’s assistance.
Forced Abortion Condemned at Hearing
Smith said Chen, who legally represented women facing forced abortion—deemed a crime against humanity at the Nuremberg Nazi War Crimes Tribunal—was relentless in using his self-taught legal skills to protect the innocent.
“It took a blind man to really see the injustice of a population control program that makes most brothers and sisters illegal and to hear the desperate cries of Chinese women,” Smith said. “It took a blind man, the great Chen Guangcheng, to open the eyes of a blind world to these human rights violations systematically inflicted on Chinese women.”
Chen said that forced abortions is a human rights abuse dictated by the communist party.
“Forced abortion is definitely a human rights issue,” Chen said. “No mother wants to kill their own children. It’s definitely dictated by the Central Communist Party. The Communist Party is above the law. So nobody can sue the Chinese Communist Party.”
Amnesty International’s T. Kumar, International Advocacy Director said forced abortion is a major human rights violation in China.
“As a consequence of the government’s one-child policy, women are still compelled to undergo forced abortion and sterilization, notwithstanding official assurances that such practices violate Beijing’s wishes,” Kumar said.
Fu said bloody cases in China’s forcibly enforced “one-child” family planning policy and in forced demolition of residential homes and relocation of residents continue to take place; the Chinese people’s basic right to life cannot be guaranteed at all.
Fu, of ChinaAid, decried the violence of forced “family planning.”
“Last month, the Ministry of Public Health publicly announced the “achievements” of the family planning policy in the past 40 years: 330 million abortions performed on Chinese women,” Fu said. “What is really distressing is that these bloody numbers continue to climb and that the majority of these abortions were forced on the women by the government.” Fu said that on March 13, a woman Henan province (Daxuzhai town, Taikang county) who was forced to have abortion against her will, was found hanged at the local family planning office with suspicious injuries all over her body. On March 22, he testified, a woman in her seventh month of pregnancy in Anhui province (Chuzhou, Fengyang county) was kidnapped by family planning cadres and taken to a hospital where she was forced to receive a lethal injection that killed her seven-month-old unborn baby and caused her to deliver a dead fetus.
Gao’s Wife Laments Husband’s Brutal Treatment
“Gao Zhisheng began in 2005 to defend persecuted Christians, Falun Gong practitioners and other persecuted groups,” said Geng He. “Because of this, the Chinese Communist authorities shut down his law office and revoked his lawyer’s license, and they also openly suppressed and persecuted him. In August 2006, the police illegally kidnapped him, and on December 22, 2006, they sentenced Gao Zhisheng to a three-year prison term, suspended for five years, on the charge of ‘inciting subversion of state power.’ During the five-year suspension, Gao Zhisheng was kidnapped by the Chinese police and disappeared at least six times. The longest of those disappearances was 20 months. Each time he disappeared, he was also tortured in various ways.”
In the one year and four months that Gao Zhisheng has been held in that prison, family members have seen him only twice and each time the visit lasted only 30 minutes; 10 months passed between the first visit and the second one. During the second visit, the police prohibited the family members from asking him for any information about himself. In the three months since then, we have been unable to get any information about him.