Updated at 6:26 p.m. EST to include statements from Bob Fu and Reggie Littlejohn, as well as add the video.
LINYI, CHINA, February 20, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The blind human rights activist who exposed China’s brutal one-child policy is facing a “very, very life-and-death situation,” Xiqiu “Bob” Fu of the human rights group ChinaAid told LifeSiteNews.com. Both Chen and his wife have grown seriously ill under intense government persecution, Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers told LifeSiteNews.
“The family situation is very worrisome,” Fu said, “and we are very outraged by the worsening treatment by the Chinese government. We demand an immediate explanation and the release of this family from the illegal detention.”
According to Littlejohn, eyewitnesses who saw Chen Guangcheng last month say, “He looked pale and moved unsteadily. Only a few steps out of the door he fainted and fell to the ground.” Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) also received “credible reports” that his wife, Yuan Weijing, appeared “skinny,” was “leaning against an interior wall,” and it seemed “it was difficult for her to move her waist.”
The elderly mother was last seen “walking on a crutch. She has not left the home” since her other son’s death, Reggie Littlejohn told LifeSiteNews.com. “She used to go get the food,” Littlejohn added.
“It is hard to imagine how the family is surviving,” an eyewitness told CHRD.
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Chen was imprisoned for more than four years for revealing the Chinese government performed 130,000 forced abortions and involuntary sterilizations in his county alone in 2005 while carrying out its oppressive population control policies. In 2010, authorities converted an entire village in Shandong Province into a heavily monitored prison camp, where Chen has remained under house arrest since leaving prison.
Government surveillance and harassment have intensified since January 23, Chinese New Year, when Chen’s older brother died of stomach cancer, according to WRWF. Seven surveillance cameras watch the house at all times; 20 guards surround the home; and more than 200 additional personnel were dispatched to prevent the family from visiting his grave.
Littlejohn told LifeSiteNews that the Chinese government set up vans that his neighbors have to pass through, “like passing through security to get to their own homes.”
Guards have more completely isolated the couple’s six-year-old daughter, Chen Kesi, from society, as well, CHRD has discovered. She is escorted to school each day by four or five guards, who stand sentry at the schoolhouse door. Additional guards are stationed at stores along her route to keep villagers from communicating with her.
“She was supposed to be at school but was not seen the first day of school,” Fu told LifeSiteNews.com. Littlejohn said the girl has since returned to school under heavy guard.
The government also barred the couple’s 11-year-old son, Chen Kerui – who is staying with his maternal grandparents – from visiting to celebrate Chinese New Year. The boy had previously cut himself in hopes his parents could visit him in the hospital.
“The Chinese Communist Party’s continuing brutality towards a poor, blind, sick and innocent man is cowardly and depraved,” said Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers. “Chen Guangcheng is a hero, for China and for the world – a man of towering courage and valiant endurance. Women’s Rights Without Frontiers demands his unconditional release and immediate medical treatment.”
To date, all efforts to assist the couple have been suppressed by Beijing, despite an international backlash involving everyone from the U.S. State Department and Amnesty International to Batman star Christian Bale.
The State Department urged China to release Chen in 2006.
CHRD reported last February that Chen and his wife were “beaten senseless” and denied medical treatment after a disgruntled government worker smuggled out a videotape in which Chen described the elaborate surveillance he must now endure. Guards repeated the treatment last July, after a storm briefly allowed Chen to make phone calls without government surveillance. That beating lasted four hours.
Guangcheng’s case has the strong support of Congressman Christopher Smith, R-NJ, who attempted to meet the dissident late last year. Smith also passed an amendment last July supporting the lawyer and activist.
Last week, CHRD reported that the Chinese government shut down a microblog supporting Guangcheng for the 40th time.
Since Guangcheng’s persecution has worsened, American leaders have stepped up their efforts to secure his release.
Five Republican Congressmen—Christopher Smith of New Jersey, Frank Wolf of Virginia, Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, John Carter of Texas, and Robert Aderholt of Alaska—wrote a letter to President Obama asking him to press for the “immediate and unconditional release” of Chen and five other prisoners of conscience: Gao Zhisheng, dissident Liu Xianbin, Guo Quan, Alimujiang Yimiti, and Yang Rongli.
The letter, dated February 10, says, “For years the international community has been promised that with China’s ascension to the World Trade Organization or with Beijing’s hosting of the Olympics, we would see tangible reforms and a growing space for dissent as is befitting a nation of growing prominence on the world stage. These promises have been empty, and now these words ring hollow.”
“Arguably, it has only emboldened the oppressors,” they wrote.
The president received another letter the following Monday asking for the release of the same six leaders. It was signed by religious leaders Dr. Richard Land, president of The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
Last Friday, Pastor Eddie Romero of Los Angeles was arrested for staging a one-man protest outside a hotel where Chinese vice president Xi Jinping was staying. Hudson Institute senior fellow Michael Horowitz held a similar vigil before the White House. “This is I think the greatness of the American people and the American heart and spirit,” Bob Fu told LifeSiteNews.com, praising “the bold and respectful actions from Mr. Horowitz and Pastor Romero, who submitted themselves to arrest in order to break the silence and raise awareness for those prisoners of conscience, including Mr. Chen Guancheng and his family.”
Littlejohn said thousands more Americans have signed a petition she drew up to free Chen Guangcheng. It currently has “more than 8,000 signatures, but we’d like to have 80,000 signatures,” she told LifeSiteNews. She plans to present the petition to the Chinese embassy and to send a copy to the president of China.
“We still want to point out that President Obama so far has not spoken out publicly,” Bob Fu told LifeSiteNews.com, “and we sincerely urge him to break the silence and speak up for those persecuted for their faith and their courageous human rights defending actions.”
“We should urge President Obama to speak up publicly for Mr. Chen and his wife’s worsening situation,” Fu said.
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