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Deal to Allow Chen Guangcheng to “study abroad” faces many obstacles and unanswered questions

by | May 5, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng with his wife and son, Chen Kerui in 2005.

Reports are that the United States and China have reached an agreement in which pro-life human rights activist Chen Guangcheng would be allowed to ask permission to study abroad. The Washington Post reported that “the Chinese government had promised to quickly process his paperwork so he can leave the country for the United States,” but in the very next paragraph made the key point that Chen and U.S. officials were “in the same position they have been stuck in for days: relying on the word of the Chinese government.”

Chen, 40, embarrassed and angered the Chinese government by exposing its systematic use of forced abortion and involuntary sterilization to enforce China’s coercive “One Child Policy.” He was sentenced to more than four years in jail and was under house arrest in rural Shandong province for 19 months before a daring escape April 22 which culminated with Chen surreptitiously arriving at the American Embassy in Beijing and garnering worldwide attention to his plight and that of his family and supporters.

Details keep coming in, explaining (or trying to justify) what happened to cause Chen to leave the safety of the American Embassy in Beijing to go to a hospital.

China’s Foreign Ministry posted a two-sentence statement on its Web site Friday, in which a spokesman, Liu Weimin, stated that should Mr. Chen wish to study abroad, Liu was certain that “competent Chinese authorities will handle his application in accordance with the law.”

But as the Post’s Jia Lynn Yang and Keith B. Richburg wrote Friday afternoon , there were plenty of obstacles and unanswered questions. To list just a few; the Chinese state-controlled media began “viciously attacking Chen”; many supporters who’ve tried to visit him in the hospital have been turned away or roughed up; and “In a news conference Friday, the top Foreign Ministry official in charge of U.S. affairs, Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai, twice refused to discuss Chen’s case or even acknowledge a deal on the dissident’s future, even though Cui was said to be the lead official involved in talks.”

“We’re hopeful but not reassured by the latest deal emerging for Chen Guangcheng,”  Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific deputy director told the Post. “The fate of Chen and his family is far from certain, given that they are not yet safe and free.”

“The disparity between high-level assurances and the reality on the ground is stark,” Baber said. “While the Chinese and the U.S. negotiated on Chen and his family, Chinese authorities were targeting his friends and supporters — including beating Jiang Tianyong, a lawyer who tried to visit Chen” in the hospital.

Among the “looming obstacles” the Post outlined is that Chen would have to get a passport, which would require Chen going back to the province where he was under house arrest for 19 months.

“The other looming obstacle to Chen’s departure is the fate of his family and how many relatives will be allowed to leave with him,” according to Yang and Richburg. “While his immediate family — his wife and two children — may be allowed to leave under the new deal, Chen has repeatedly expressed worries for his mother and brother, mentioning them in an interview Friday and a surprising call into a Washington congressional hearing.”  

It would be difficult to exaggerate how dramatic Chen’s testimony was Thursday to the  the Congressional-Executive Commission on the People’s Republic of China. (See www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2012/05/chinese-human-rights-defender-chen-guangcheng-testifies-at-emergency-hearing/#more-13051.)

The Commission is a congressionally-mandated, bipartisan panel made up of Members of the House and Senate and Presidential appointees serving in the Obama Administration. Co-Chairman Chris Smith(R-NJ) held an emergency hearing in November 2011 to determine Chen’s then unknown status.

“The developments in this Chen Guangcheng incident have shown the world that the Chinese Communist government is above the law, wantonly abusing an honest and law-abiding citizen, said Bob Fu Founder and President, ChinaAid Association. “At the same time, everyone has seen the inestimable conscience of Chen Guangcheng, his courageous fight for justice and human rights, and his indestructible hope.  These events have also shown the world that this authoritarian regime which has engaged in a protracted struggle for the conscience of a blind man has been defeated.”

(You can read his statement at http://chrissmith.house.gov/UploadedFiles/2012-05-03_CECC_Hearing_Bob_Fu.pdf.)

NRL News Today will continue to update you on Chen’s very precarious situation.

Your feedback is very important to improving National Right to Life News Today. Please send your comments to daveandrusko@gmail.com. If you like, join those who are following me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/daveha

Categories: China