Activist phones in to US hearing, asks for Clinton’s help

Agence France-Presse
Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng phones in to a US congressional hearing from a Beijing hospital and pleaded for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to help get him to America

WASHINGTON, United States of America – In an extraordinary scene on Capitol Hill, blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng phoned in to a congressional hearing Thursday, May 3, from a Beijing hospital and pleaded for US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to help get him to America.

“I want to meet with Secretary Clinton. I hope I can get more help from her,” Chen told Representative Chris Smith in a phone call carried live on the speaker system where Chen’s case was being examined in a congressional commission on human rights in China.

Chen said he wanted his “freedom of travel guaranteed,” because he wanted to “come to the United States for some time of rest,” according to friend and supporter Bob Fu, who served as translator for the call.

Chen, who helped expose abuses in China’s one-child policy in his home province of Shandong, escaped from house arrest on April 22 and made his way to the US embassy in Beijing, where he spent six days before leaving on Wednesday.

The activist, who had pressed for years for an end to forced abortions and sterilizations, left the embassy after Beijing supposedly pledged that he and his family would be treated “humanely” but has since repeatedly expressed fears for his safety.

“I really am fearing for my family members’ lives,” Chen said.

“The thing I’m most concerned with now is the safety of my mother and my brother, and I really want to know what’s going on with them.”

Smith told Chen that several of the witnesses at the hearing, including former Chinese dissidents who know Chen, were “desperately concerned” for him and his family.

“We are praying for you and we will be unceasing in our efforts” to help, Smith said.

He also told Chen that Hollywood star Christian Bale had “called one hour earlier to convey his solidarity.”

The Oscar-winning British actor had made international headlines in December when he tried to visit the blind lawyer-dissident when he was under house arrest, but was prevented by security personnel.

Clinton in China

Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other US officials are currently in Beijing for scheduled bilateral talks, and Chen’s plight has dominated the relationship over the past week.

Smith said Clinton did not meet with Chen while the activist was holed up in the US embassy.

Smith told Chen that Clinton needed to “go to your hospital room and meet with you, and you and your family and your supporters need to be on a plane coming to the United States for, as you put it, that rest that you so richly deserve.”

Congressman Frank Wolf told AFP that it was “very powerful that Chen asked the secretary to come get him. He wanted her to come and rescue him.”

During the hearing, Wolf, a staunch human rights advocate in Congress, demanded answers from US authorities as to how they could have accepted “at face value assurances that Chen would be safe upon exiting US protection.”

“As the news cycle unfolded yesterday, what began as a purported diplomatic triumph devolved into a diplomatic fiasco,” Wolf said, adding he intended to formally request “all cable traffic, classified or otherwise, that surrounds these negotiations.”

President Barack Obama’s administration “has a high moral obligation to protect Chen and his family. To do anything less would be scandalous,” Wolf said.

Reggie Littlejohn, president of the Women’s Rights Without Frontiers which combats forced abortions in China, said she was deeply moved to hear Chen.

“The man has nerves of steel,” she said. “He was able to face horrific situations and to endure terrible suffering, and yet to do it with laughter (on the phone) at times.” – Agence France-Presse