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Blind Chinese Activist Chen Guangcheng to Appear Before U.S. Congress

( [email protected] ) Apr 08, 2013 12:46 PM EDT
Blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng will appear Tuesday before the same U.S. Congressional subcommittee that he appealed for U.S. government's help to free him and his family from Chinese authorities, according to a Christian advocacy group ChinaAid.
Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese dissident, arriving in New York on Saturday shortly after he landed at Newark Airport. Dave Sanders for The New York Times

Blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng will appear Tuesday before the same U.S. Congressional subcommittee that he appealed for U.S. government's help to free him and his family from Chinese authorities, according to a Christian advocacy group ChinaAid.

Last April, Chen, who is one of China's most prominent dissident, escaped from a house arrest in China to American embassy in Beijing. Subsequently, a high-stakes China-U.S. diplomatic negotiation ensued, which resulted in the release of Chen and his family to America.

During the negotiation, Chen testified to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights via cellphone from Beijing, requesting for permission for him and his family to leave China and for protection of family members in China. These appeals were made via the cellphone of Bob Fu, founder and president of ChinaAid, who was invited to testify at the two special hearings on China’s plight.

Chen, a self-taught lawyer blinded by childhood illness, was once the state media spotlight for his fight for the disabled and the disenfranchised. However, in 2005, he organized a lawsuit on behalf of thousands of women in Shandong Province who had been subjected to forced abortions and sterilizations, which resulted in the local court sentencing him to prison for over four years on spurious charges.

After Chen's released in September 2010, local officials who, with the backing of provincial authorities, placed him under house arrest, with hired guards and cellphone jamming equipment.

In a homemade video that was smuggled last year out of the village where he lived and posted on the Internet, Mr. Chen and his wife detailed the indignities of their detention. Local officials responded with a vicious round of beatings.

Last April, Chen escaped the house arrest by climbing the walls around his house and sneaking past the guards and a human rights activist took him to Beijing. While American official agreed to provide temporary shelter, the pickup almost failed as Chinese security cars trailed their vehicle, forcing them to switch car and race through the streets of Beijing to the embassy.

Then, an arduous negotiation ensued, where the Chinese were initially infuriated and complained bitterly about what they considered interference in their internal affairs. In the end, the government engaged with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and a team of diplomats to resolve the ordeal.

Upon arriving Newark Airport in New Jersey, Chen said he was grateful to the American Embassy and the Chinese government, which allowed him to leave China, and thanked Chinese officials for “dealing with the situation with restraint and calm,” according to New York Times.

The hearing tomorrow is titled “Chen Guangcheng and Gao Zhisheng: Human Rights in China,” which will focus on the currently imprisoned Gao Zhisheng, a Christian human rights lawyer. Gao’s wife, Geng He, and ChinaAid’s Bob Fu will also testify.

Last week, Gao and ChinaAid’s Bob Fu met with former U.S. president George W. Bush, who have in the past met with other Chinese dissidents, to discuss current human rights issues in China.

According to the statement, Chen and Fu were invited to testify at the hearing at by Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. It is scheduled for 2 p.m., Tuesday April 9, in Washington, D.C.