The House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Thursday approved an amendment calling for the release of blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, who has been persecuted relentlessly by the Chinese government. It calls on the President and the Secretary of State to “actively and repeatedly seek diplomatic visits to Chen Guangcheng and his family,” and “raise the issue of harassed, arrested, disappeared, and disbarred human rights lawyers and defenders” with the Chinese government.
“Chen remains under house arrest, imprisoned in his own home and denied of basic human rights, including medical care,” said Smith sponsor of the amendment and chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees human rights. “The U.S. Congress and administration must not abandon Chen Guangcheng as the Chinese government continues to brutally repress Mr. Chen and his wife and children. President Obama, a 2009 Nobel Prize-winner, should speak out on behalf of Mr. Chen, who was a Nobel Prize-nominee.”
The measure has been included in H.R. 2583, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, and now moves to the House floor. To read the amendment, click here.
“Strong U.S. leadership is required to advance human rights in China, not only for the sake of those suffering from violent human rights abuses, but for our own sake as well,” Smith said. “The interests of the U.S. depend on a future China that protects its citizens’ rights and freedoms. The U.S. should speak out and help coordinate the international community’s interventions on behalf of Chen Guangcheng.”
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 revealed to the world the massive violence and brutality of a one-child policy enforcement campaign in Linyi, Shandong province. The Chinese government placed him under house arrest, then convicted him on trumped-up charges. Chen served a four-year, three-month sentence, despite serious health issues. On Sept. 9, 2010, Chinese officials transported him from prison to his house, which was reported to be surrounded by police and surveillance cameras. Foreign reporters attempting to enter his village have been beaten and driven off.
In February 2011, after the release of a video showing continued harassment at the hands of the Chinese government, the abuse and oppression increased and continues to this day.
In February 2010, Smith led a bi-partisan group of Members of Congress in nominating Chen for the Nobel Peace Prize. Smith has chaired dozens of hearings on human rights in China, including a November 2009 hearing, “Thirty Years of the One-Child Policy.”
Smith chairs the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights. He is an executive member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China co-operated by the White House and Congress.
The 2010 Congressional-Executive Commission on China Report states that ‘‘Chinese authorities continued to implement population planning policies that interfere with and control the reproductive lives of women, employing various methods including fines, cancelation of state benefits and permits, forced sterilization, forced abortion, arbitrary detention, and other abuses.’’