Posted: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 12:06 am | Updated: 5:22 pm, Wed Apr 3, 2013.
130,000 — the number of pregnant women a Chinese civil rights activist said that he documented in his local area of China that were forced to have an abortion; 600,000 — the number of family members, friends and neighbors that were tortured and arrested for helping to hide the pregnant women.
(JAMES DURBIN CHINA AID BANQUET Bob Fu, founder of China Aid, presents Chen Guangcheng with an award during the China Aid banquet Tuesday at Midland Country Club. James Durbin/Reporter-Telegram)
Chen Guangcheng, who made international headlines last year when he escaped to the United States, spoke to a crowd of 225 Tuesday evening at the Midland Country Club.
Chen is the blind, self-taught lawyer who was imprisoned for four years and three months and then placed under house arrest for two years for his 2005 study and research into the Chinese government’s forced abortions and massive abuses in the official family-planning policy.
The 41-year-old lost his sight at a young age when he became ill with a fever that damaged his optical nerves.
Speaking through the use of a translator, Chen was the keynote speaker at the annual ChinaAid banquet Tuesday honoring the organization that helped him escape his country and start a fresh life of freedom in America.
In September 2010, Chen was released from prison and remained under house arrest where he and his family were subject to repeated beatings and constant surveillance. In April 2012, he escaped and fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
After a tense month of negotiations in which ChinaAid played a role, he was then permitted to leave China in May and travel to New York City where he currently resides and is writing a book.
Chen said that since he arrived in Midland on Saturday, he’s been impressed with Midlanders and their genuine sincerity and warm welcomes. Chen and ChinaAid founder Bob Fu met with Gov. Rick Perry on Monday and will meet with former President George W. Bush today.
He said that’s he’s glad to have the opportunity to talk with both men about the importance of the deteriorating situation of human rights across the globe.
Chen gave a brief overview of the Chinese communist government and said that while some may be under the impression that forced abortions only happen for those who have had more than one child, it’s simply not true. If a family hasn’t obtained a birth permit, whether it’s their second child or their first one, the women are kidnapped and taken to a hospital where they are forced to have their babies killed.
Some of those women are even into their eighth and ninth months of their pregnancies, he added.
“You literally have got to have permission from the government to have your own child,” he said.
Having this abuse occur around him drove Chen to start a study in 2005 that documented the 130,000 pregnant women who were forced to abort their babies and the 600,000 family members, neighbors and friends who were tortured and arrested for helping the women to escape the abortions.
Because of these acts, he said the respect for babies and human life is decreasing in China.
“The respect of life among the common people is on the verge of extinction,” he said.
Fu said that the significance of bringing Chen to Midland to talk with ChinaAid supporters and future donors is that he’s a vivid example of what the organization is doing in Midland and the United States.
China Aid has worked to help thousands of individuals and sponsored more than 30 legal defense cases as well as financially supported more than 100 individuals and their families who are imprisoned.
Last year Fu told the Reporter-Telegram that he knew about Chen’s escape before it was discovered by police in China and that he has known Chen for more than a decade. Fu testified at an urgent Congressional Executive Commission on China hearing and phoned Chen where he allowed the activist to speak on his own behalf.
The next day, Chinese officials then allowed Chen to apply for a visa to study law at New York University and his paperwork in the U.S. was expedited.
Chen’s story shows that nothing is impossible, Fu said.
“He’s a man of courage who lost his sight during his childhood to a fever but has seen more things than many people who have eyes,” he said. “He’s an advocate for the voiceless.”
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