U.S. congressional leaders have responded to blind Chinese lawyer Chen Guangcheng’s pleas for help by asking the Obama administration to put credible pressure on the Chinese regime to secure the safety of Chen’s family members.
The rights activist’s family has come under increased persecution since Chen fled mainland China a year ago with U.S. assistance. Communist authorities stepped up the abuses against relatives in Shandong Province following Chen’s testimony at a Congressional hearing on April 9–even though the Communist Party had promised not to harm his family after he left China.
His imprisoned nephew, Chen Kegui, has been denied treatment for acute appendicitis, and the household of Chen Kegui’s father Chen Guangfu has been increasingly intimidated in recent weeks. Last Thursday, Chen Guangfu was attacked by two men in suits, while the phone line to his mother’s house has been cut off and his Weibo microblog has been deleted.
Eight senior members of Congress signed the bipartisan letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, including House Speaker John Boehner and Minority leader Nancy Pelosi. They laid out four approaches for the U.S. government to tackle the issue: to insist on medical treatment and parole for Chen Kegui, to organize a meeting between Kerry and Chen and his wife to send a “clear and unequivocal message” to Beijing, to deny U.S. visas to the communist officials who have been persecuting the family, and to call on the Chinese leadership to honor its commitments to protect the family’s civil rights, and prosecute those responsible.
Regarding the visa ban, the letter said there is credible evidence of serious human rights violations, including “illegal house arrest, forced disappearance, trumped up charges resulting in eventual prison time, beatings, and the denial of medical treatment.”
The letter also requested a briefing by the State Department on the actions being taken regarding the situation.
Bob Fu, president of rights group ChinaAid, said: “We applaud the effort of Congress’ bipartisan leadership to address this critical issue of the escalating retaliation against the Chen Guangcheng family,” according to a press release. “We continue to urge President Obama to personally intervene in this case.” Fu is a friend to Chen and has been a point of contact to Congress on his behalf.
“Failing to hold China accountable will not only potentially have dire consequence for the life of Chen Kegui,” Fu said. “But more importantly, it could put the credibility of the U.S. leadership at stake.”