China Aid Association
(Washington, D.C.—May 15, 2012) For the second time in two weeks, blind human rights activist and lawyer Chen Guangcheng on Tuesday was able to speak directly to a Congressional hearing via the cellphone of ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu.
The U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health & Human Rights convened the hearing on “Chen Guangcheng: His Case, Cause, Family, and Those Who are Helping Him” at 1 p.m. Friday afternoon in the Rayburn House Office Building. Fu was one of four witnesses invited to testify. The text of his prepared remarks is below.
This is the second time since Chen escaped in late April from his home in Shandong province, where he had been kept under extra-judicial house arrest, and took refuge in the U.S. Embassy that Fu has been asked to appear before Congress about Chen’s case.
Two weeks ago, Fu testified before the Congressional-Executive Committee on China and enabled Chen to speak to the hearing directly via Fu’s cellphone to clearly state his wish that he and his family be allowed to come to the United States. See ChinaAid’s report here: https://chinaaid.org/2012/05/blind-activist-chen-guangcheng-speaks.html
At Tuesday’s hearing, Chen again used Fu’s cellphone to speak directly to Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), chairman of the subcommittee, and those who attended the hearing about his experiences and that of his family member, in particular his nephew Chen Kegui, who has been arrested for acting in self-defense and is now in a dangerous situation. Everyone at the hearing was moved, and several of the other witnesses spoke directly to Chen to encourage him.
At least two Republican and two Democrat representatives attended the hearing, an indication of the high importance they placed on the outcome of the Chen case.
Fu said that while the agreement reached by the U.S. and Chinese governments to allow Chen to come to the United States and the commitments to this end were a positive step, but “the implementation of the agreement and the realization of the commitments are far more important than the agreement and commitments themselves.” To date, there has been no substantive progress toward making arrangements for Chen to leave China. Fu called on Congress to be more engaged in whatever manner possible to help Chen and his family come to the United States and to protect the safety of his family members, especially Chen’s nephew, Chen Kegui, who has been arrested for intent to murder when all he was doing was acting out of self-defense. Fu also reminded the hearing that Chen’s supporters were now being persecuted by the government and called for attention to be paid to their cases as well.
The other witnesses at the hearing were veteran Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng (now founder and chairman of the Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition), Tiananmen Square democracy movement commander-in-chief Chai Ling (now founder and All Girls Allowed, which seeks to end China’s one-child policy), Reggie Littlejohn, founder and president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, also an anti-one-child policy group, and a victim of China’s population control measures, Mei Shunping.
Watch the live broadcast of the hearing on C-span here: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/ChineseH
Below is the prepared text of Fu’s testimony:
Testimony of Bob Fu, founder & president, China Aid Association
Hearing of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health & Human Rights
1 p.m., Tuesday, May 15, 2012
It has now been more than three weeks since Chen Guangcheng’s miraculous escape on April 22 from his family home in Dongshigu village (Yinan county, Linyi district) in Shandong province where he had been imprisoned for 19 months. After his escape, Chen Guangcheng managed to make his way to Beijing with the help of some netizens (or Internet-based supporters), then took refuge in the U.S. Embassy for six days, after which he was sent to Beijing Chaoyang Hospital where he was put under house arrest. On May 3, through a call on my cellphone, Chen was able to speak live to a hearing of the Congressional-Executive Committee on China and to tell Chairman Chris Smith directly that he and his family wished to come to the United States. The following day, the Chinese and U.S. governments expressed their willingness to work together toward this outcome. The entire Chen Guangcheng incident has been full of dramatic ups and downs and has captured the attention of the world. Along with the rest of the world, I continue to believe that a satisfactory result is possible. But in the almost two weeks since that phone call, there has been no substantive progress by the Chinese government toward allowing Chen to come to the United States. The Chinese government has yet to issue him a passport, which means Chen Guangcheng has not been able to leave China.
1. Chen Guangcheng’s cause
Chen Guangcheng, 41, is a blind self-taught human rights lawyer who began in the early 1990s to use legal means to protect his own fundamental rights as well as that of his fellow villagers, including the villagers’ land use rights, and the right of disabled persons to enjoy tax exemptions and fare exemptions on public transportion. He had some success in winning cases of this kind. In 2001, he graduated from Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and in 2002, he tried but failed to set up an association for the rights of the disabled in Beijing. In 2003, the local government named him one of its Ten Outstanding Young Persons, and in July and August of that year, he and his wife visited the United States.
In 2005, Chen Guangcheng led a team of human rights lawyers in an investigation that exposed 130,000 cases of forced abortions and forced sterilizations (tubal ligations) in the Linyi district of Shandong province—for which he became the target of government attacks and oppression. That same year, he was named “Person of the Year” by the Hong Kong-based magazine Asia Week, and in 2006, Time Magazine named him one of its 100 most influential figures in the world. But in August 2006, because of his activism, the Chinese government sentenced Chen Guangcheng to four years and three months imprisonment. In August 2007, while he was serving his prison term, Chen was given the Philippines’ Magsaysay Award. Following his release from prison on September 9, 2010, Chen and his wife, Yuan Weijing, were put under house arrest where they were beaten and abused and forbidden to seek medical treatment.
In the face of such harsh persecution, Chen Guangcheng has never given in: he has kept up his battle against the forces of evil, even to today.
2. Chen Guangcheng’s family
Chen Guangcheng’s wife, Yuan Weijing, is a former high school English teacher. The couple has a son and a daughter. Yuan Weijing has made great sacrifices for Chen Guangcheng and his cause. She once said: “I am Guangcheng’s eyes.” When Chen was in prison for more than four years time, all the family’s burdens fell on her, and she was allowed only three prison visits. After Chen’s release from prison, their children became the victims of guilt by association and have been unable to lead normal lives. Chen’s elderly mother was the only person allowed to go to the family’s home during Chen’s house arrest, and she has been the sole source of the basic supplies necessary to keep the family alive. Chen’s eldest brother, Chen Guangfu, has been the victim of local government persecution since the beginning of 2006 because of his relationship to Chen Guangcheng. He, Chen’s wife, and Chen’s elderly mother have all been brutally beaten because of Chen’s noble actions.
After Chen Guancheng’s escape last month, the local official who has been directing the persecution of Chen, town mayor Zhang Jian, led a group of people in a raid on the home of Chen’s brother, Chen Guangfu, that began at about 11:30 p.m. on April 26 and continued to dawn. Without showing any IDs, they broke down the door and jumped over the walls of Chen Guangfu’s home, then savagely beat Chen Guangfu and his wife, Ren Zongju. Their son, Chen Kegui, thought bandits had come to rob them. When he was violently attacked, he injured several of his attackers with a kitchen knife. The Yinan county police have already formally arrested him on the charge of “intentional homicide.” Almost all of the lawyers who were willing to handle Chen Kegui’s knifing case have lost their freedom of movement, or had their lawyer’s license revoked, or simply been kidnapped. According to Chen Kegui’s current lawyer, Liu Weiguo, Chen Kegui’s actions were entirely in line with legitimate self-defense. Nevertheless, Chen Guangcheng has made clear that he is worried that the local government will seek to retaliate against him through Chen Kegui. Furthermore, Chen’s brother, Chen Guangfu and his wife have been criminally detained for the crime of “harboring and sheltering” [a criminal or fugitive]. They have been released on bail but could be sentenced at any time.
Chen Guangcheng’s family and relatives stand firmly with him. Even though they have suffered intense persecution, they have never abandoned him nor given up their support of his noble cause. This is truly a family of heroes.
3. Chen Guangcheng’s supporters
Chen Guangcheng has a band of loyal supporters who have united around him because of their shared sense of responsibility for advancing human rights and the rule of law in China. They too have suffered for supporting Chen. Among them, there are some well-known persons like lawyers Teng Biao and Jiang Tianyong and dissident Hu Jia and his wife, as well as some ordinary heroes like the key figures in the rescue operation Miss He Peirong, Guo Yushan and others. In addition, American movie star Christian Bale, of Batman fame, as well as a steady stream of hundreds of ordinary Chinese went to visit Chen Guangcheng in 2011. They were illegally blocked, beaten, arrested, robbed, and verbally abused. Recently, when lawyers Jiang Tianyong and Teng Biao tried to visit Chen Guangcheng in hospital, they were both beaten and Jiang lost the hearing in one ear.
Here in the United States, I and many people from different countries and different backgrounds have all been supporting Chen Guangcheng and his cause. They include Congressmen Chris Smith and Frank Wolf, Committee chairperson Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, many mainstream reporters, and many people living in Midland, Texas, where ChinaAid is based. Zhang Min, a news show host on Radio Free Asia’s Mandarin service, was the first and has been the most comprehensive in reporting on Chen Guangcheng’s great deeds, and she is a true friend of Chen Guangcheng and his wife.
But let me remind everyone here, there is one long-term supporter of Chen Guangcheng who has paid a heavy price for following his conscience whom we should not forgot, and that is the constitutional law expert and pioneer of the Christian rights defense movement Dr. Fan Yafeng.
Beginning in 2005, Fan Yafeng and a number of other lawyers and dissidents (many of whom are Christians), including Gao Zhisheng, Hu Jia, Li Fangping, Xu Zhiyong, Li Jinsong, helped and supported Chen Guangcheng’s cause: to expose the atrocities of forced abortion and forced sterilizations (tubal ligations). On September 20, 2010, Fan Yafeng hosted a Beijing lawyers forum that was attended by Li Subin, Zhang Kai and other Beijing human rights lawyers to discuss how to help win the freedom of Chen Guangcheng, who had served his time and been released from prison only to find himself imprisoned at home. Three days later, he and two other Christian human rights activist went to the Shandong provincial government’s representative office in Beijing and held up banners protesting the persecution of Chen Guangcheng. Less than three months later (Dec. 9 to 18), Dr. Fan Yafeng was taken into custody and tortured. After he was released, he was held in “Chen Guangcheng-style house arrest”—with communication with the outside world completely cut off, even to today.
If the persecution of Chen Guangcheng is considered “the actions of the local government,” then I can’t help but ask, how do you explain Fan Yafeng’s 15 months of house arrest in Beijing, or the beatings of Chen Guangcheng’s two Beijing lawyers who tried to visit him in Chaoyang Hospital in Beijing? What I want to make clear to the American government and the American people is this: Do not be easily misled and deceived.
4. Where is the way out for Chen Guancheng?
The power struggle among China’s senior leaders in advance of the 18th Communist Party Congress has been intensified by the Wang Lijun – Bo Xilai case, and it has already clearly revealed that the central government has split into two. Against the backdrop of these unique circumstances, the fact that Chen Guangcheng was still able to take and make calls on his phone after he was handed over by the U.S. Embassy to Beijing Chaoyang Hospital without doubt upset the plans of many players in this incident. And it also increased the dramatic variables at play.
Despite the fact that the United States and China have reached an apparent agreement on and are committed to Chen Guangchengs’s freedom and security, Chen Guangcheng remains under house arrest in hospital and visitors are barred, tailed and beaten. All of this shows that the implementation of the agreement and the realization of the commitments are far more important than the agreement and commitments themselves.
I hope that Congress will do more in monitoring and urging the Obama administration to ensure that the civil rights of Chen Guangcheng and his family members are protected by law. Chen Guangcheng was allowed to enter the U.S. Embassy, and members of Obama’s administration, including Assistant Secretaries of State Kurt Campbell and Mike Posner, State Department legal advisor Harold Koh and Ambassador Gary Locke, all made great efforts and sacrifices during the negotiation period. Although some aspects of the events that followed certainly were not handled appropriately by the Administration, we are nonetheless pleased to see that high-level American and Chinese officials have promised to help Chen Guangcheng and his family come to the United States so he can rest and further his studies. This shows that our country recognizes that it is responsible for the outcome of the fate of Chen Guangcheng. We hope that Congress can continue to offer maximum support to the Administration in quickly implementing the agreement reached by the Chinese and U.S. leadership, and can help Chen Guangcheng and his family transition smoothly to life in the United States.
Chen Guangcheng has paid an extremely heavy price to defend the rights of the disadvantaged groups who were the victims of coercive population control measures (mainly women). His conscience, courage and spirit has been like a light shining in the long dark night of defending human rights in China, and has also inspired people around the world who are struggling for human rights and justice.
He is blind, yet he sees and speaks the truth. And he is willing to pay the price for doing so.
The time is now—for the free world to provide a way out for this great blind man.
Pastor Xiqiu “Bob” Fu, founder and president, China Aid Association
Tuesday May 15, 2012