WESTMINSTER, May 21, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese human rights activist who has suffered imprisonment and beatings while fighting the country’s One-Child Policy, received a standing ovation in the UK House of Commons as he was presented with the first-ever Westminster Award for his contribution to “human rights, human life and human dignity” on Monday.
The award, an engraved silver platter, was presented to Chen in the Grand Committee Room of the House of Commons, by MP Fiona Bruce, the Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-life Group, and Chris Whitehouse, a Trustee of the Right to Life Charitable Trust.
Through a translator, Chen commented, “I am truly honoured and delighted to receive this first ever Westminster Award on this my first ever visit to the British Parliament. I have always been encouraged in my work by the knowledge that I had friends here in the Palace of Westminster and throughout the United Kingdom. I thank them all for their support.”
Fiona Bruce MP said on the weekend, “Chen Guangcheng’s fight for respect for life from its earliest moments – at great personal cost to himself – stands out as a beacon of bravery across the world. It will be an honour for all present to acknowledge this when he receives his very much deserved award in Westminster tomorrow.”
Chen told an audience of MPs, Peers, activists and media that people in the west are living in “a kind of flower house” in which they gradually start to take for granted the beautiful scent. But in China, he said, “the state can rob you of your life and your body.”
Critics have said that the meeting and the award will hurt Britain’s diplomatic and financial relationship with China, but Chen urged Prime Minister David Cameron to stand fast. In an interview, Chen criticized the British government’s support of the One Child abortion and sterilization policy, saying that Cameron should refuse to be cowed by threats and “represent the values and concerns of the people who voted for him.”
“He should stop the fruitless human rights dialogue with Beijing and keep to the democratic and traditional British values which the world admires.”
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Chen delivered to the prime minister’s office today a list of 44 senior Chinese officials whom he accuses of human rights abuses against him, his family and fellow activists, or who forced women to have abortions under the one-child policy.
“I will call on British Prime Minister David Cameron to slap these officials with a UK travel ban,” he said in an interview with the South China Morning Post. “David Cameron has to remember the words of [US president Franklin Roosevelt] – that he has nothing to fear but fear itself. He should not be afraid of Beijing and any threats against trade.”
Chris Whitehouse, who helped to fund Chen’s visit to London, told the South China Morning Post, “So far all the government ministers invited to meet with Mr. Chen have said they are too busy. This points to them caving in and sends out an appalling message to the brutal regime of Chinese government.”
Chen, a self-taught lawyer, has been harassed for years by Chinese government authorities for his opposition to the forced abortions and sterilizations that are an integral part of the policy. He and his wife were beaten and he was incarcerated for four years after he launched a lawsuit against Family Planning authorities. Last April, he escaped house arrest and fled to the American Embassy in Beijing. A month later, he was allowed to go to the US with his wife and children. He is visiting the European Union this week.
Lord David Alton, a pro-life member of the House of Lords, invited Chen to London and has followed his struggle against the One-Child Policy for some years. He said, “Chen must rank as one of the great men of this generation. He loves his country and its people but not its coercive one child policy. One day he will be celebrated in China as a national hero who bravely stood against the system and paid a heavy price for doing so.”
Lord Alton wrote in April against the policy, noting that official figures from the Chinese government revealed that since it was implemented in 1971, 336 million babies have been aborted. The Chinese government, he said, has also “undertaken 196m sterilisations. 403m intrauterine devices have been inserted into women, often without their consent.”
Lord Alton described a visit to China during which officials privately “gave me quiet encouragement in opposing the one-child policy.” He said there was “more sympathy than I had anticipated” when he started to champion the case of Chen Guangcheng.
During Chen’s imprisonment, Lord Alton said, “I told senior Chinese officials that I thought that one day Chen would be seen as a national hero. It was striking that no one contradicted me or shouted me down. Of course, many officials have suffered under these policies too. Hardly anyone in China is unaffected.”
“Chen’s bravery and the clarity with which he saw the economic and demographic consequences of a policy which evaded sighted people gradually opened the space for more honest debate within the country,” he added.
Lord Alton wrote that his own opposition to the One-Child Policy has met with fierce criticism from his fellow legislators. He describes a meeting with a Secretary of State for International Development during which he said, “the air was blue with undeleted expletives and four letter words.”
“I was accused of undermining development policies which relied on population control. I told the politician concerned that we should be attacking poverty not people and that it was an egregious violation of the rights of women when they are forcibly aborted or sterilised.
“For the UK to have channelled money into agencies which have in turn funded those carrying out coercive population measures makes us collaborators in these violations.”