China Aid Association
(Washington, D.C.–May 11, 2013) In a rare bipartisan act, Congressional leaders on Friday sent a letter to the Obama administration calling for concrete action to help end Chinese government persecution against the family of blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng.
The letter to Secretary of State John Kerry was signed by both House Speaker John Boehner and Minority leader Nancy Pelosi as well as six other senior members of Congress including Chen’s longtime Congressional champions Congressmen Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.), and suggests four specific ways the United States can show the Chinese government that its treatment of Chen’s extended family in Shandong province is unacceptable.
They include pushing for medical treatment for the imprisoned and ailing nephew of Chen Guangcheng, who is suffering from acute appendicitis, visiting him in prison and seeking medical parole for him; a meeting between Kerry and Chen and his wife, Yuan Weijing; and denial of U.S. visas to the 44 officials, including Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee member and first-ranked vice premier Zhang Gaoli, who have actively participated in persecution against Chen and his family and who are named on a list provided by Chen at a Congressional hearing a month ago.
The letter reminded Kerry that the Chinese side had promised not to harm Chen’s family when Chinese and U.S. official reached an agreement a year ago to allow Chen and his wife and children to leave China for the United States.
However, Chinese authorities have engaged in escalating persecution against Chen’s extended family since Chen’s departure, especially following Chen’s testimony before a Congressional hearing on April 9. (See our earlier reports at: https://chinaaid.org/2013/05/chinaaid-helps-blind-legal-activist.html; https://chinaaid.org/2013/04/urgent-update-home-of-chen-guangcheng.html and https://chinaaid.org/2013/04/urgent-shandong-government-exacts.html )
Most recently, on May 9, Chen’s oldest brother, Chen Guangfu, was violently attacked, and the phone line to their mother’s home was rendered non-operational. Chen Guangfu’s “Weibo,” or Chinese microblog, has also been shut down.
The letter said, “Chen Guangcheng and his family have suffered greatly at the hands of Chinese officials in Shandong Province” and their experiences have “further revealed, in stark terms, a troubling trend of Chinese officials abusing, harassing, and intimidating the families of human rights activists in order to try to pressure these brave men and women into abandoning their important work.”
ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu, who has been spearheading the efforts to raise awareness of the plight of Chen’s family, said, “We applaud the effort of Congress’ bipartisan leadership to address this critical issue of the escalating retaliation against the Chen Guangcheng family.”
Fu, a close friend of Chen, added, “We continue to urge President Obama to personally intervene in this case. Failing to hold China accountable will not only potentially have dire consequence for the life of Chen Kegui, but more importantly, it could put the credibility of the U.S. leadership at stake.”
This is the full text of the letter:
(Click to view or downlaod the oringinal letter PDF https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B_YUgSyiG6aIWUliU3lmNkotakU/edit?usp=sharing)
May 10, 2013
The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Mr. Secretary:
We are writing to express our concern about the harassment and abuse inflicted upon Mr. Chen Guangcheng and his family by local officials in Shandong Province in China. Most urgent is the dire medical condition of Chen Kegui, the imprisoned nephew of Chen Guangcheng, who is reportedly suffering from acute appendicitis. His family is fearful that absent proper medical attention (which has been denied by Chinese authorities to date) his life is at risk. In 2012, Kegui was denied due process and sentenced to over three years in prison for only defending himself and his family against armed intruders.
Further, it has come to our attention that on May 9th, Chen’s elder brother, Chen Guangfu, was violently beaten in what seems like an escalating effort to intimidate and harm Chen Guangcheng’s family.
It is our understanding that you and State Department officials have made the medical condition of Chen Kegui a priority in your discussions with Chinese government officials. We appreciate those efforts but request that you consider the following options moving forward:
· Continue to work with the Chinese government at the highest levels to ensure that Chen Kegui is immediately hospitalized and given a medical examination by a licensed physician. Officials from the U.S. Embassy should request to visit Kegui at Linyi Prison to underscore the importance the U.S. places on his well-being. Once the immediate physical danger is averted, we ask that the State Department pursue medical parole for Chen Kegui.
· Meet with Chen Guancheng and his wife, Yuan Weijing. Such a meeting would not only bolster their own spirits in the midst of a difficult time but it will send a clear and unequivocal message to the Chinese government that this situation is of the utmost importance and that a swift and satisfactory resolution is in their strategic interest.
· Urge the Chinese government, in the strongest possible terms, to honor its commitments to protect the civil rights of Chen’s family, fully investigate the illegal activities of local authorities, and prosecute those responsible for the illegal and criminal acts against Mr. Chen and his family.
· Absent any progress on China’s commitments, utilize the presidential proclamation, issued on August 4, 2011, which made it U.S. policy that individuals engaged in serious human rights abuses and humanitarian law violations shall be denied entry into the United States. This proclamation gives the administration cause to convey to the Chinese government that the local and provincial officials engaged in the abuse of Chen and his family will, should they apply, be denied visas, in keeping with U.S. policy regarding human rights abusers. Regardless of whether any of these individuals intend to travel to the U.S., such a message to the Chinese government would be of great symbolic import.
In regards to the visa ban, human rights organizations and the press have compiled credible evidence to substantiate the claims of Chen Guangcheng regarding the specific individuals, through command responsibility and/or direct involvement, who have committed serious human rights violations in their persecution of Chen and his family, including illegal house arrest, forced disappearance, trumped up charges resulting in eventual prison time, beatings and the denial of medical treatment. We can help provide additional details of abuse and documentation as needed if that would prove useful.
Chen Guangcheng and his family have suffered greatly at the hands of Chinese officials in Shandong Province. Their story is not unfamiliar but it is somewhat unique, in that it has garnered international attention, in part through Chen’s heroic escape from house arrest, and shone a bright light on the consistent human rights abuses endured by the Chinese people. It has further revealed, in stark terms, a troubling trend of Chinese officials abusing, harassing, and intimidating the families of human rights activists in order to try to pressure these brave men and women into abandoning their important work.
At the appropriate time, we would like to request a briefing by the State Department regarding the actions being taken regarding this situation.
Thank you for your attention to our recommendations and the plight of Chen Guangcheng and his family.
John A. Boehner Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House Democratic Leader
Frank R. Wolf Joseph Crowley
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen James P. McGovern
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Christopher H. Smith Rick Larsen
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Bob Fu, President | Mark Shan, News Analyst
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