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Entries in Dissidents (3)

Thursday
May032012

Chen Guangcheng Phones Congress, Requests Meeting with Clinton

State Department photo(WASHINGTON) -- Chen Guangcheng told Congress Thursday that he wants to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton face to face and he requested to have his “freedom of travel guaranteed” as he looks to leave China with his family and come to the United States.

“I want to meet with the Secretary Clinton,” Chen said over speakerphone as a translator conveyed his words in English. “I hope I can get more help from her. I also want to thank her face to face.”

The blind Chinese activist, who generated international headlines after he took refuge in the U.S. embassy in Beijing ahead of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s attendance at a summit in China this week, phoned into a congressional hearing Thursday to report to Congress the latest details of his predicament.

Chen, calling from a hospital room in Beijing, said he “really fears for my other family members’ lives” and suspected that all of the villagers who helped him escape house arrest and get to the embassy "are also receiving retribution."

“I’m most concerned right now is the safety of my mother, my brothers and I really want to know what’s going on with them,” he said. Bob Fu, the founder and president of China Aid Association and a close friend of Chen’s, connected Chen on the phone and translated his words into English for the panel.

Concluding the phone call, Chen said he wanted “to thank all of you for your care and for your love.”

Despite neither body of Congress being in session this week, Rep. Chris Smith, the chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, convened a hearing Thursday to examine Chen Guangcheng’s quandary as he seeks safe travel out of China.

“It was a great relief that I and millions around the world learned of his escape and his reaching safety at the American Embassy in Beijing on Friday morning.  Yet it is with equally great concern that I convene this hearing of the China Commission today,” Smith, R-N.J., said before Chen called into the hearing. “Chen has, since leaving the American Embassy in Beijing, expressed an earnest desire to gain asylum for himself and for his family. Questions indeed arise as to whether or not Chen was pressured to leave the U.S. compound.”

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., said that Chen’s case “is not an anomaly” but “symptomatic of pervasive human rights abuses committed by the Chinese government” against its own citizens. Wolf said he will formally request a congressional review of all cable traffic, classified or otherwise, that surrounded the negotiations for Chen to leave the embassy.

“It is hard to comprehend why the administration would accept at face value assurances that Chen would be safe upon exiting U.S. protection.  You wonder if there were other forces at work,” Wolf said. “Had word come down from on high to resolve the Chen situation, no matter what, prior to the arrivals of Secretaries [Hillary] Clinton and [Tim] Geithner, who were headed to Beijing this week for high-level economic and foreign policy talks?  Was there even a hint of coercion?  Was there any coercion, subtle coercion, forced coercion or pressure involved?  What were the internal State Department and White House deliberations?”

Smith said he intends to convene another hearing of the commission on Chen in order to hear testimony from Obama administration witnesses.

“There are many questions, and there are even more concerns.  How will the United States-China agreement on Chen and his family’s safety be enforced?  What happens if Chen or any member of his family suffers retaliation?” Smith asked. “The eyes of the world are watching to see that his wishes are honored by the Chinese government.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May012012

Activist Describes Chinese Dissident's Escape to US Embassy

STR/AFP/GettyImages(BEIJING) -- Hu Jia, a fellow activist and friend of Chen Guangcheng, told ABC News that Chen's entry into the U.S. Embassy in Beijing was pre-arranged after it appeared the dissident had no other choice but to escape.

Hu, who met with Chen after his escape and was detained and questioned by Beijing police for 24 hours, recounted the tense hours that led up to Chen's transfer to U.S. officials.

Chen is still believed to be in the U.S. Embassy as officials from the U.S. and China attempt to work out a solution to the dissident's fate. U.S. officials in Washington and Beijing won't confirm whether Chen is at the embassy or under U.S. protection.

"The situation was very dangerous," Hu said. After the video was recorded, Hu, Guo Yushan, a Beijing-based writer and human rights advocate, and other unnamed activists came to the conclusion that it was no longer safe for Chen to stay within the underground network of safe houses that had sheltered him since his escape from his village in Shandong province. His supporters knew that Beijing police were aware Chen was in town.

"We felt them closing in," said Hu. "We feared we would no longer be able to protect him." Hu says there is only one place in Beijing that is safe; the U.S. Embassy.

It was then decided that one of his supporters would phone contacts at the U.S. Embassy to tell them Chen was coming in. Chen would be accompanied to the embassy and travel by car. According to Hu, the small group was pursued by unmarked Beijing police security vehicles and a brief car chase ensued. "[Chen] managed to escape the Shandong police but was almost caught by the Beijing police." Chen, Hu is certain, made it to the embassy just in time.

On Saturday Hu was taken into police custody. He said that while he was in detention the police told him that the actions of Chen, Guo Yushan, He Peirong (the young activist who tweeted that it was she who drove Chen to Beijing) and himself were not illegal.

Hu said that He Peirong has now been missing for 108 hours and counting; they have been unable to reach her by cellphone since she disappeared last Friday. There is no one at her home in Nanjing.

Hu emphasized that Chen sought refuge and not asylum but is now in a difficult position.

"The situation now is that if he steps out of the U.S. Embassy he will be arrested," says Hu. "If he seeks political asylum he cannot come back."

Hu, who has not had any contact with Chen since he went into detention himself, did outline a potential solution for Chen, China and the U.S. "Another option is for Chen and his family to go to the U.S. for 'medical treatment'. The Chinese government should give them passports and the U.S. Embassy should grant visas so that he can come back to China."

The best option, Hu believes, is what Chen appealed for in his direct plea to Premier Wen Jiabao. He is asking the government to admit the wrongful persecution of Chen Guangcheng and his family for the last seven years, guarantee the future safety of Chen and his family and prosecute those responsible for the abuses committed against Chen and his family.

He avoided the question of whether Chen's escape was timed to coincide with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's arrival in Beijing this week to attend the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

"Cheng Guangcheng was in a black jail, it was illegal. He had to escape, it was a matter of time," Hu said. "If he waited any longer he would die."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec012010

United States Is Prepared To Protect Dissidents Named In Wikileaks Cables

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The State Department said Wednesday the U.S. is prepared to protect dissidents and activists who have spoken with U.S. embassies abroad and may be in danger after having been outted by the Wikileaks cables.

“We've done everything that we can to reach out to them.  We are prepared to -- to help protect them if that becomes necessary,” spokesman PJ Crowley told reporters.

“We believe that the release of these cables definitely puts real lives at risk,” he added.

Crowley said he was unaware of any cases so far of activists being persecuted as a result of the cables’ release, but this was one of the issues that most worried the State Department last week ahead of the Wikileaks release. Officials worked with news organizations to redact as many names and identifying information as possible that could identify which human rights activists or political opposition figures in authoritarian countries had spoken to the U.S.

Asked if the U.S. was prepared to provide such individuals asylum, Crowley suggested that may not be on the table, saying “asylum is a particular category that -- that has a particular, you know, standard of care associated with it, but if -- if we have to help relocate people, you know, for a period of time, we are prepared to do that.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio