Ben Johnson

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Chen Guangcheng to govt: Open China’s secret records and protect my family

Ben Johnson
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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 10, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Chen Guangcheng escaped his imprisonment nearly a year ago, but Chinese Communist officials are still punishing him and his family, he told a Congressional subcommittee yesterday.

The blind activist and lawyer demanded the United States open the secret records of its negotiations with China and expose how Beijing is breaking its agreement by continuing to imprison, beat, and torture his relatives.

The strong challenge came as Chen testified yesterday before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs' Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights.

Chen said diplomats told him they secured a promise from the Chinese government to curtail all harassment against his family, but the harassment has intesified.

“Not only has the Chinese government not fulfilled its own promises to me a year ago, but it has also become worse as they have not stopped persecuting my family members,” Guangcheng told the panel through an interpreter.

Chen's nephew, Chen Kegui, was sentenced to more than three years in prison last November after what the blind lawyer classified as a show trial on “trumped-up charges.”

“We cannot continue to tolerate the Chinese communist authorities continuing to go back on their word and deceiving the international community at will,” Guangcheng told the committee. “The United States should make this clear publicly, demanding that the Chinese government fulfill its promises in the agreement with the U.S.”

Chinese officials imprisoned the lawyer after he exposed the horrors of the nation's one-child policy and the brutality of its ruthlessly efficient forced abortion practices. After releasing him from prison, it turned his entire village into a prison, repeatedly subjecting his family to beatings.

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He escaped house arrest last April in a daring run, breaking his foot in the process before arriving at the U.S. Embassy.

The escape was reported as a “complication” of then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's visit.

Chen said he was initially pressured to leave the U.S. Embassy and to return to his home prison, with the counsel originating “not [from] those from the embassy but others.” Sources familiar with the proceedings say U.S. diplomats passed on implicit threats from the Chinese government to hurt his family. The State Department denies the allegations.

On May 2, Chen left the embassy for a Chinese hospital – under duress, according to Bob Fu of ChinaAid and others familiar with the situation. U.S. embassy officials promised to be with him but did not accompany nor visit him, he said. Chen added that the U.S. government stopped taking his calls immediately after his departure.

During the standoff, President Obama refused to comment on the situation, stating flatly, “I’m not going to make a statement on the issue.”

Throughout the crisis, Congressman Christopher Smith, R-NJ, kept up the pressure on the Obama administration to safeguard and free the human rights activist.

In the meantime, Chinese officials were making good on their threats.

Chen told the Voice of America that Communist officials beat his nephew “ruthlessly” on April 27, while seeking answers about his uncle's escape. Other forms of abuse followed.

Guangcheng finally departed China with his wife and children last May. He is now a student at New York University, thanks in part to the arrangements of professor Jerome Cohen.

He has hardly softened his stance since leaving his homeland, calling China's population control policy “a sin, because life is sacred.”

Last October, Batman actor Christian Bale presented Chen with an award on behalf of Human Rights First. Bale had been assaulted while trying to visit Chen in December 2011.

"Christian Bale isn't only acting as Batman; he is Batman in reality,” Guangcheng told the subcommittee, to their amusement.

Tuesday's appearance was a fulfillment of sorts. Guangcheng had previously testified before the committee via cell phone on two occasions.

The hearing, "Chen Guangcheng and Gao Zhisheng: Human Rights in China," featured testimony from Chen, ChinaAid's Bob Fu, and Geng He.

Geng He is the wife of lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who is now imprisoned in a remote part of western China for defending the human rights of China's persecuted Christians and members of the Falun Gong sect.

Since April 2006 Zhisheng has been repeatedly herded into prisons, tortured, and held incommunicado for as long as 20 months at a time. Gao said in the midst of a 48-hour torture session his government tormentors told him, “We don’t want you to die…We want you to want to die.”

Guangcheng said that despite the Communist regime's tight grip on the reins of power, people of goodwill can act to bring down the government and curb its abuses through cyberactivism.

The 41-year-old confidently predicted, “there is no doubt that in the future, I will be able to travel to China and travel with full freedom.”

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