Thursday, May 03, 2012

Chinese Dissident Appeals to US Lawmakers

Blind Activist Phones Congressional Hearing 

Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng has made an appeal to U.S. lawmakers requesting a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to help him leave China.

Chen made a phone call to a Congressional hearing in Washington discussing his case and said he was tired and wanted to come to the United States to rest. He said he feared for the lives of his family members and the safety of the people who have helped him escape.

Chen spoke from a hospital bed in Beijing where he is being treated since Wednesday when he agreed to leave the U.S. embassy. He took shelter there for almost a week after fleeing house arrest hundreds of kilometers away.

Chen told Representative Chris Smith in a phone call carried live on the speaker system that he hopes to meet with Clinton, who is in China for important talks on bilateral cooperation.

Smith expressed concern about Chen and his family and questioned if China can be trusted to guarantee their protection, as agreed with the United States.

Second Thoughts 

Chen originally agreed to stay in China, but had second thoughts hours after he left the U.S. embassy. U.S. officials say they are talking with him to determine his options.

At the Congressional hearing in Washington, Republican Representative Frank Wolf of Virginia said he wants an investigation into reports that Chen was coerced to leave the embassy.

U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke has said that Chen had never asked for asylum and that he had chosen to stay in China after the authorities there promised safety and humane treatment for him and his family.

China has denied accusations that it has threatened Chen's wife. A spokesman for the foreign ministry Liu Weimin said all Chinese citizens are treated according to the country's law.

Chen is a self-taught lawyer and human rights activist who has been blind since childhood. He was given a four-year prison sentence in 2006 for exposing abuses under China's forced abortion policy aimed at population control. He had been under house arrest since 2010, before escaping on April 22.