LINYI, China October 28, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Even as questions swirl about whether Chinese pro-life activist Chen Guangcheng is alive or dead, details have emerged about a vicious four-hour beating that the blind lawyer underwent in July.
According to human rights organizations closely following Chen’s case, for months there has been no reliable news about Chen, who has worked tirelessly and under constant threat of violence to oppose China’s brutal one-child policy, except for unconfirmed reports that he has died.
One organization, ChinaAid, says that the July beating it has learned about was witnessed by Chen and his wife’s elementary school-age son. The couple endured a similarly brutal beating in February after they had smuggled out a videotape documenting the shocking conditions of their illegal house arrest following Chen’s release from prison.
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Now, what ChinaAid says is a “reliable source”, has informed that the July beating occurred after a storm knocked out equipment that authorities had installed in Chen’s house to cut off all their telecommunications contact with the outside world. With the equipment disabled, Chen was able to make phone calls on July 25, but the calls were intercepted by authorities. On July 28, Shuanghou town mayor Zhang Jian reportedly led a group of people to Chen’s home and beat and tortured the couple for four hours.
According to China Aid, at 2 pm. authorities cleared everyone out of Chen’s village. They then conducted a search of his home, finding a phone card in a pile of ashes.
At around 4:00 pm., authorities started the beating. Chen’s screams of pain were heard first, while his wife Yuan Weijing was heard shouting angrily and their son Kesi cried. After a while, the source says Weijing’s screams of pain could also be heard. From then until 8 p.m., the only sounds were screams of pain.
Some time later, a village doctor was permitted to give Chen some cursory medical treatment.
During the four-hour beating, Chen’s elderly mother, who lives with them, was reportedly prevented from entering their home. When she was finally allowed to go in, neighbors heard her burst into tears, and her anguished cries - described as “gut-wrenching to hear” - continued for a long time.
According to the source, Zhang tortured Chen to try to get him to tell how he got the phone card to make the calls on July 25 and to reveal where he had hidden it. When Chen and his wife refused to give any details, their house was ransacked until the phone card was found.
“We condemn the Shandong authorities for their extreme brutality against innocent blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng and his wife,” said ChinaAid’s founder and President Bob Fu.
“The Chinese government’s brutality against brave individuals like Mr. Chen who promote the rule of law should certainly make the world seriously doubt the sincerity of the Chinese government’s commitment to international human rights,” Fu said.
Chen was imprisoned for four years and three months for exposing the violent measures used to enforce China’s one-child policy, including forced abortions and involuntary sterilizations that in his county alone in 2005 numbered 130,000.
Since his release from prison in Sept. 2010, Chen has been kept under illegal house arrest, denied medical treatment for serious intestinal problems and deprived of all contact with the outside world. Reporters and activists who have tried to visit him have been roughed up and turned away.
On July 21, the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed an amendment to the State Department 2012 appropriation bill supporting Chen and his wife.
LINYI, CHINA, February 20, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The blind human rights activist who exposed China’s brutal one-child policy is facing a “very, very life-and-death situation,” Xiqiu “Bob” Fu of the human rights group ChinaAid told LifeSiteNews.com. Both Chen and his wife have grown seriously ill under intense government persecution, Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers told LifeSiteNews.
“The family situation is very worrisome,” Fu said, “and we are very outraged by the worsening treatment by the Chinese government. We demand an immediate explanation and the release of this family from the illegal detention.”
According to Littlejohn, eyewitnesses who saw Chen Guangcheng last month say, “He looked pale and moved unsteadily. Only a few steps out of the door he fainted and fell to the ground.” Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) also received “credible reports” that his wife, Yuan Weijing, appeared “skinny,” was “leaning against an interior wall,” and it seemed “it was difficult for her to move her waist.”
The regime has banned all contact between Chen’s mother, who is in her eighties and suffering from severe bronchitis, with family outside the compound. She had supplied the couple’s food.
The elderly mother was last seen “walking on a crutch. She has not left the home” since her other son’s death, Reggie Littlejohn told LifeSiteNews.com. “She used to go get the food,” Littlejohn added.
“It is hard to imagine how the family is surviving,” an eyewitness told CHRD.
Chen was imprisoned for more than four years for revealing the Chinese government performed 130,000 forced abortions and involuntary sterilizations in his county alone in 2005 while carrying out its oppressive population control policies. In 2010, authorities converted an entire village in Shandong Province into a heavily monitored prison camp, where Chen has remained under house arrest since leaving prison.
Government surveillance and harassment have intensified since January 23, Chinese New Year, when Chen’s older brother died of stomach cancer, according to WRWF. Seven surveillance cameras watch the house at all times; 20 guards surround the home; and more than 200 additional personnel were dispatched to prevent the family from visiting his grave.
Littlejohn told LifeSiteNews that the Chinese government set up vans that his neighbors have to pass through, “like passing through security to get to their own homes.”
Guards have more completely isolated the couple’s six-year-old daughter, Chen Kesi, from society, as well, CHRD has discovered. She is escorted to school each day by four or five guards, who stand sentry at the schoolhouse door. Additional guards are stationed at stores along her route to keep villagers from communicating with her.
“She was supposed to be at school but was not seen the first day of school,” Fu told LifeSiteNews.com. Littlejohn said the girl has since returned to school under heavy guard.
The government also barred the couple’s 11-year-old son, Chen Kerui – who is staying with his maternal grandparents – from visiting to celebrate Chinese New Year. The boy had previously cut himself in hopes his parents could visit him in the hospital.
“The Chinese Communist Party’s continuing brutality towards a poor, blind, sick and innocent man is cowardly and depraved,” said Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers. “Chen Guangcheng is a hero, for China and for the world – a man of towering courage and valiant endurance. Women’s Rights Without Frontiers demands his unconditional release and immediate medical treatment.”
To date, all efforts to assist the couple have been suppressed by Beijing, despite an international backlash involving everyone from the U.S. State Department and Amnesty International to Batman star Christian Bale.
The State Department urged China to release Chen in 2006.
CHRD reported last February that Chen and his wife were “beaten senseless” and denied medical treatment after a disgruntled government worker smuggled out a videotape in which Chen described the elaborate surveillance he must now endure. Guards repeated the treatment last July, after a storm briefly allowed Chen to make phone calls without government surveillance. That beating lasted four hours.
Guangcheng’s case has the strong support of Congressman Christopher Smith, R-NJ, who attempted to meet the dissident late last year. Smith also passed an amendment last July supporting the lawyer and activist.
Batman star Christian Bale drew international attention to the case when he was videotaped being roughed up as he attempted to visit Guangcheng last year.
Last week, CHRD reported that the Chinese government shut down a microblog supporting Guangcheng for the 40th time.
Since Guangcheng’s persecution has worsened, American leaders have stepped up their efforts to secure his release.
Five Republican Congressmen—Christopher Smith of New Jersey, Frank Wolf of Virginia, Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, John Carter of Texas, and Robert Aderholt of Alaska—wrote a letter to President Obama asking him to press for the “immediate and unconditional release” of Chen and five other prisoners of conscience: Gao Zhisheng, dissident Liu Xianbin, Guo Quan, Alimujiang Yimiti, and Yang Rongli.
The letter, dated February 10, says, “For years the international community has been promised that with China’s ascension to the World Trade Organization or with Beijing’s hosting of the Olympics, we would see tangible reforms and a growing space for dissent as is befitting a nation of growing prominence on the world stage. These promises have been empty, and now these words ring hollow.”
“Arguably, it has only emboldened the oppressors,” they wrote.
The president received another letter the following Monday asking for the release of the same six leaders. It was signed by religious leaders Dr. Richard Land, president of The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
Last Friday, Pastor Eddie Romero of Los Angeles was arrested for staging a one-man protest outside a hotel where Chinese vice president Xi Jinping was staying. Hudson Institute senior fellow Michael Horowitz held a similar vigil before the White House.
“This is I think the greatness of the American people and the American heart and spirit,” Bob Fu told LifeSiteNews.com, praising “the bold and respectful actions from Mr. Horowitz and Pastor Romero, who submitted themselves to arrest in order to break the silence and raise awareness for those prisoners of conscience, including Mr. Chen Guancheng and his family.”
Littlejohn said thousands more Americans have signed a petition she drew up to free Chen Guangcheng. It currently has “more than 8,000 signatures, but we’d like to have 80,000 signatures,” she told LifeSiteNews. She plans to present the petition to the Chinese embassy and to send a copy to the president of China.
“We still want to point out that President Obama so far has not spoken out publicly,” Bob Fu told LifeSiteNews.com, “and we sincerely urge him to break the silence and speak up for those persecuted for their faith and their courageous human rights defending actions.”
“We should urge President Obama to speak up publicly for Mr. Chen and his wife’s worsening situation,” Fu said.
Contact information: Chinese Embassy in the USA 3505 International Place, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20008 Tel: (202) 495-2266 Fax: (202) 495-2138 Email: email@example.com
Chen Guangcheng Escapes House Arrest in Shandong Province
April 28, 2012 Chen Guangcheng’s Journey Posted by Evan Osnos
Over the years, the extraordinary journey of Chen Guangcheng has been an inspiration, a protest, and, at times, a dark farce. Now, through his own sheer will, his life has come to symbolize, for China and the United States, an opportunity.
Sometime in the last few days, Chen slipped out of the stone farmhouse on the rural plains of Shandong province where he has been held under house arrest, with his family, off and on since 2005. If Chen’s captors had been readers of history, they might have predicted that he would not acclimate to limitations. Born blind, to a peasant family, he once ventured four hundred miles to Beijing, when he was in his early twenties, to file a tax complaint. Later, he was steered into the study of massage and acupuncture—one of the few professions available to the blind in China—but he leveraged that opportunity into taking law courses, and became a pioneering attorney on behalf of women subjected to forced abortions and sterilizations under the one-child policy. Lastly, his captors might have done well to remember that the last time he escaped, in the summer of 2005, he slipped out of his house after nine o’clock, because the darkness gave him an advantage. This time he escaped at night once again, and made his way to Beijing with the help of accomplices. He is now believed to be under the protection of U.S. diplomats. (They have not confirmed.)
For years, Chen’s case has been a confusing blot on China’s aspirations for reform; every step that the country took toward greater rule of law or judicial accountability was cheapened by the fact that, ever since Chen’s legal challenges embarrassed his local government in 2005, central authorities in Beijing have been unwilling or unable to prevent local apparatchiks from systematically abusing him. His case became a kind of authoritarian tragicomedy in 2006, when Chen, who had once been celebrated in the local press for his determination to become a lawyer, was sentenced to four years and three months in jail for “destroying property” and “assembling a crowd for the purpose of disrupting traffic”—even though, at the time, he had been under house arrest. Even the nationalist corners of the Chinese press could no longer understand it. Last October, the Global Times wrote that “the case of Chen Guangcheng has become exaggerated into a mirror of China’s human rights, and it seems that we need more experienced authorities to lance this boil.”
Since getting out of jail, Chen has spent nineteen months in undeclared house arrest, with no legal justification; he has been barred from contact with the outside, and has been frequently assaulted. Like many others, I tried to visit Chen’s house. It was 2005, and I got no further than the front yard before plainclothes police and their proxies moved in. They pushed me into a taxi, sent me away, and tailed the car to the county line. This week, however, Chen succeeded in doing what dozens of reporters and lawyers and activists—and at least one Hollywood star—have failed to do: He broadcast his voice to the world. “I implore the Chinese government to ensure the safety of my family according to the principles of upholding the rule of law,” he said in a videotaped appeal to China’s Prime Minister, recorded in hiding in Beijing, and now widely circulated. In his message (translated in full), he mixed the language of a lawyer—“As an affected party, I hereby accuse them of the following crimes”—with a medical and logistical accounting of his ordeal, including injuries sustained by his wife, Yuan Weijing, from guards’ beatings: a “left orbital bone,” “lumbar disc protrusion.” But perhaps the most striking passage is not about violence. It is about the arrangement of guards dedicated to keeping him alone and silent, an image that will linger in Chinese history as the physical expression of a regime that has become afraid of its own people:
They station one team inside the house and another one outside, guarding each of the four corners. Further out, they block each road leading to my house, and extend as far as the village entrance. They dedicate seven to eight people to guarding bridges in neighboring villages….[On the] roads leading to my village, they dedicate up to twenty-eight guards to them each day…My understanding is that the number of officials and policemen who participate in my persecution adds up to about one hundred.
In his escape and his appeal, Chen has posed several questions. He has asked Premier Wen Jiabao to protect his family and address the corruption at the root of his case. In doing so, Chen has given Wen perhaps his final chance, in the final months of a frustrated ten-year term, to fulfill his oft-stated intentions to reform the system. As of now, Wen will be remembered as a well-intentioned but ultimately ineffective advocate for political reform. If he can protect Chen’s family, and bring his abusers to justice, Wen will have an accomplishment worth noting. It will do nothing to undermine Chinese stability and economic growth—so often the excuses to defer systemic reform—to address the crimes visited upon Chen Guangcheng.
To the United States, he has presented a related question. What do a blind peasant lawyer and the privileged senior Party police boss Wang Lijun—who fled to the U.S. consulate in February—have in common? When their system failed them, each man, from opposite ends of the political spectrum, sought protection from the Americans. We should be proud of that.
Chen’s timing is, I suspect, no coincidence: Next week, Hillary Clinton, Timothy Geithner, and a raft of other officials arrive in Beijing for the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Even American officials who sympathize with Chen will find this awkward. They need China for diplomatic support and persuasion on Iran, North Korea, Syria, and more—and the last thing they want is a fight over a dissident. Wanted or not, the moment to demand justice for Chen has arrived. Asked if the U.S. should protect him, Susan L. Shirk, a former State Department official, told the Times: “A blind lawyer who is being persecuted for exposing forced abortions? I don’t think there’s any question about it.” In other words, it’s not clear if Chen is in the embassy or elsewhere, but it’s difficult to imagine the administration not finding a solution to ensure that Chen stays safe. It will succeed, I’m sure, but while they’re at it, the visiting Americans should make clear that they are no less concerned about the fate of Chen’s relatives: his wife; a nephew, Chen Kegui; and activists, including He Peirong, who are said to have helped him escape.
It’s not clear how the American delegation will finesse this extraordinary moment, but a great many will be watching. So far, the only side to have declared its strategy is Chen himself. “If anything is to happen to my family,” he said in his video to the world, “there will be no end to my pursuit of this issue.”
BEIJING - A blind pro-life activist who fled house arrest in his rural China village is under the protection of U.S. officials and high-level talks are taking place between the countries about his fate, an overseas activist group said Saturday.
The whereabouts of Chen Guangcheng - amid unconfirmed reports that he sought protection at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing - could be a major political complication for the two countries, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other top U.S. officials due to arrive in China this coming week for the latest round of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
"Chen is under U.S. protection and high-level talks are currently under way between U.S. and Chinese officials regarding Chen's status," said a statement from the ChinaAid Association. It cited a source close to the situation.
Texas-based ChinaAid and its founder, Bob Fu, have been active in promoting Chen's case and confirmed Friday that Chen had escaped to Beijing from where he was being held in his village in Shandong province in eastern China.
The U.S. Embassy in Beijing declined to comment Saturday, as have U.S. officials in Washington.
A self-taught lawyer blinded by fever in infancy, Chen served four years in prison for exposing forced abortions and sterilizations in his and surrounding villages. Since his release in September 2010, local officials confined him to his home, despite the lack of legal grounds for doing so, beating him up on several occasions.
Chen was widely admired by rights activists at home who last year campaigned to publicize his case among ordinary Chinese and encourage them to go to Dongshigu village and break the security cordon. Even Hollywood actor Christian Bale tried to visit, but as with many others he was roughed up by locals paid to keep outsiders away.
Amnesty International and other human rights groups called on the Chinese government to ensure the safety of Chen and his family, saying they had been abused during 18 months of illegal house arrest.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai told a briefing earlier Saturday on the upcoming talks with the U.S. that he had no information on Chen's case.
"Your question does not come within the scope of today's briefing. So I have no information to give you," he said when asked about Chen.
Fu said Chen's case was a benchmark for the United States and its human rights image around the world.
"Because of Chen's wide popularity, the Obama administration must stand firmly with him or risk losing credibility as a defender of freedom and the rule of law," he said in the statement.
"If there is a reason why Chinese dissidents revere the U.S., it is for a moment like this," Fu said.
But the case comes as the United States is looking for help from China on many issues around the world, such as trying to restrain North Korea and Iran on their nuclear ambitions, and push Syria to observe a cease-fire in the fighting in that country. Bilateral disputes over trade, China's currency and U.S. relations with Taiwan are also issues that likely will be part of the talks, scheduled for Thursday and Friday.
Fu and Chinese-based activists say Chen slipped away from his intensely guarded home on the night of April 22, was driven away by activists and then handed over to others who brought him to Beijing.
Chen recorded a video as a direct address to Premier Wen Jiabao, condemning the treatment of him and his family and accusing local Communist Party officials by name. Activists sent the video Friday to the overseas Chinese news site Boxun.com, which posted part of it on YouTube.
Activist Hu Jia met with Chen after his escape and said the people with Chen later called him. "They said, 'He is in a 100 percent safe place,'" Hu said. "If they say that, I know where that place is. There's only one 100 percent (safe) place in China, and that's the U.S. Embassy." Claims of Chen's location could not be verified.
Hu's wife, Zeng Jinyan, posted a photo Friday on Twitter of Chen and Hu together. Chen is wearing the same clothes he wore in the video. Both men are smiling.
Chen's escape, if ultimately successful, would boost a beleaguered civil rights community, which has faced rising arrests and other harassment over the past year.
If Chen is in the U.S. Embassy or with U.S. officials at another location, it is not known how he would be able to leave or where he could go without Chinese permission.
In 1989, when Fang Lizhi, whose speeches inspired student protesters throughout the 1980s, fled with his wife to the U.S. Embassy after China's 1989 military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement, he was forced to stay there for 13 months while the countries discussed his fate.
Chen's case is more complicated because his wife and 6-year-old daughter are still trapped in Shandong.
Fu said Chen's case should be handled through negotiations, like Fang's, and that his family should not suffer any reprisals.
China's media have been silent on the case, and most words related to Chen and his village have been blocked online. Chinese political analysts have declined to comment.
BEIJING - U.S. and Chinese officials are ironing out a deal to secure American asylum for a blind Chinese legal activist who fled house arrest, with an agreement likely before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives this week, a U.S. rights campaigner said Monday.
Bob Fu of the Texas-based rights group ChinaAid said that China and the U.S. want to reach agreement on the fate of Chen Guangcheng before the annual high-level talks with Clinton and other U.S. officials begin in Beijing on Thursday. (AP story: Invisible man dominates U.S.-China talks)
"The Chinese top leaders are deliberating a decision to be made very soon, maybe in the next 24 to 48 hours," Fu said, citing a source close to the U.S. and Chinese governments. Both sides are "eager to solve this issue," said Fu, a former teacher at a Communist Party academy in Beijing whose advocacy group focuses on the rights of Christians in China and who maintains a network of contacts in the country.
"It really depends on China's willingness to facilitate Chen's exit," Fu said.
Chen, a well-known dissident who angered authorities in rural China by exposing forced abortions, made a surprise escape from house arrest a week ago into what activists say is the protection of U.S. diplomats in Beijing, posing a delicate diplomatic crisis for both governments. (AP story: Running blind: China activist's dramatic escape)
The U.S. Embassy declined comment Monday either on Chen's situation or talks involving Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.
Both want the annual talks, known as the strategic and economic dialogue, to provide ballast to a relationship that is often rocky and to provide ways of working out disputes on trade, Taiwan, Syria, Iran and North Korea.
In a video made after Chen escaped from his village and released last Friday, the activist made no mention of wanting to go abroad. Instead he beseeched Premier Wen Jiabao to investigate the beatings, harassment and other mistreatment he, his wife and daughter suffered at the hands of local officials during 20 months of house arrest.
If Chen were willing to leave China, Washington could ill afford to turn him away. Clinton and other senior officials have repeatedly raised his case in meetings with Chinese officials. President Barack Obama is already under fire from Republicans over a case in which an aide to a senior Chinese leader entered the U.S. Consulate in Chendgu but then left, turning himself over to Chinese investigators.
For Beijing, the issue is sensitive because Chen enjoys broad sympathy among the Chinese public for perservering in his activism despite being blind and despite repeated reprisals from local officials. And though Beijing dislikes bargaining with Washington over human rights, allowing Chen to go abroad would remove an irritant in relations with Washington. It would also prevent him from becoming a bargaining chip in an already bumpy transition of power under way from President Hu Jintao's administration to a younger group of leaders.
Fu, who has been a point of contact for people helping Chen, said he offered to help the dissident leave China through "a sort of underground railroad" shortly after he made a daring nighttime escape from his heavily guarded farmhouse on April 22. Fu had made such arrangements previously, helping the wife and two young children of another dissident lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, flee to the U.S. after they'd exited China overland from Beijing to Thailand.
But Fu said that Chen refused the offer and chose instead to go to Beijing. Despite Chen's initial resistance to exile, Fu said that might now be the only option.
"My sense is that at the end of the day, after China is willing to facilitate it in a face-saving way with the U.S., he and his family may have to choose to travel to the U.S. in whatever way that China agrees," he said.
Chen is widely admired by rights activists in China who last year publicized his case among ordinary Chinese and encouraged them to go to Dongshigu village and break the security cordon. Even Hollywood actor Christian Bale tried to visit, but was roughed up by locals paid to keep outsiders away
A self-taught lawyer blinded by fever in infancy, Chen served four years in prison on what activists say were trumped-up charges after exposing forced abortions and sterilizations in his and surrounding villages. Since his release in September 2010, local officials confined him to his home. Amnesty International and other human rights groups say he was abused over the last 18 months.
An escaped human rights activist in China has recently become the focus of diplomatic efforts between China and the United States. (Latest video report from AP)
Before his release, blind attorney Chen Guangcheng was imprisoned and tortured for more than four years for exposing the forced abortion of well over 100,000 women in China. He has been under house arrest for the last year and a half, and he and his wife have been tortured. But Reggie Littlejohn of Women's Rights Without Frontiers tells OneNewsNow Guangcheng recently escaped his home, even though it was surrounded by police (see earlier story).
"I believe that this is a miracle," she shares. "He was under so much surveillance, and so I am just absolutely in awe that this has happened."
Guangcheng is in safe hands in Beijing, under American protection. But police have since arrested a friend and some family members, some of whom have been beaten. His wife and two children remain under surveillance and could be in danger. So Littlejohn's group is encouraging the public to take action.
"We need international pressure on the Chinese Communist Party not to retaliate against his family for his escape," she notes.
Meanwhile, the United States is in a position to apply direct pressure -- an opportunity Littlejohn says should be taken.
"Women's Rights Without Frontiers calls upon Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to strongly advocate for Chen and his family when she visits Beijing on May 3 and May 4," Littlejohn adds.
Guangcheng reportedly is not seeking political asylum. He wants to stay in China and wants freedom and protection for his family.
BEIJING, May 11, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The nephew of embattled Chinese forced-abortion opponent Chen Guangcheng has been charged with “voluntary manslaughter” after he defended himself when government officials broke into his home, a charge that could carry the death sentence, the Guardian reported on Friday.
The U.K. newspaper cited lawyers who said Chen’s nephew Chen Kegui was charged for brandishing a meat cleaver at intruders who broke into his house in Linyi, Shandong province, as they searched for Chen. Lawyers defending the nephew said they have come under pressure from the government to drop the case, even though the younger Chen said he was only acting in self-defense and did not kill anyone, but only inflicted non-fatal wounds.
“Obviously it was justifiable self-defence. What else can you call it when 10 armed, unknown men crawl over the wall, break into his house and beat him? Instead of punishing the culprits, the authorities are reversing the meaning of ‘good’ and ‘evil’,” said lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who told the newspaper he lost some of his hearing from a perforated eardrum after the head of state security beat him for trying to visit Chen in the hospital last week.
The Guardian noted that several other lawyers connected to the events are either under house, under close surveillance, or forbidden from talking to the media.
Chen Guangcheng remains under police lockdown at a Beijing hospital, recuperating and awaiting an opportunity to flee government persecution by accepting a fellowship at a U.S. university. Chen said that he has not even been allowed to leave the hospital to take some fresh air, and that friends, lawyers, and U.S. officials have been blocked from seeing him. He is at the hospital with his wife and two small children.
Chen has regularly expressed extreme concern for his extended family in interviews with media, and told Voice of America on Monday that officials had already beaten his nephew “ruthlessly.”
Chen left his sanctuary at the U.S. embassy last week after the Chinese government threatened to disallow reunion with his wife, who they said would be sent back to the village of their extra-judicial home imprisonment if he did not leave the American embassy.
The Chinese government has said that Chen is allowed to apply to a fellowship overseas “like any other citizen,” but has so far not moved to process Chen’s passport request.
BEIJING (Reuters) - China allowed a blind legal activist, Chen Guangcheng, to leave a hospital in Beijing on Saturday and board a plane bound for the United States, a move that could signal the end of a diplomatic standoff between the two countries.
Chen's escape from house arrest in northeastern China last month and subsequent stay in the U.S. embassy caused huge embarrassment for China and led to a diplomatic rift while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was visiting Beijing for talks to improve ties between the world's two biggest economies.
The U.S. State Department said he was en route to the United States, along with his wife and two children. He boarded a United Airlines flight bound for Newark. China's Foreign Ministry limited its commentary to an acknowledgement that Chen had left the country.
"Chen Guangcheng is a Chinese citizen. China's relevant departments have handled the procedures for exiting the country in accordance with the law," the ministry said in a faxed statement to Reuters.
State news agency Xinhua said earlier that Chen had applied to study in the United States under legal procedures. The Foreign Ministry said this month that Chen could apply to study abroad, a move seen as a way of easing Sino-U.S. tensions on human rights.
Chen's friend, Jiang Tianyong, cited the activist, one of China's most prominent dissidents, as saying that he and his family obtained their passports at the airport hours before he was due to board a flight.
"I'm obviously very happy," Jiang said. "When he boards the plane, he can finally say: 'I'm free'. At the same time, I feel a sense of regret because such a large country like China can't even tolerate a citizen like him to exist here."
There was no immediate indication where Chen might pursue his studies, but New York University's law school has previously offered him a position as a "visiting scholar". A statement by State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland struck a conciliatory note, saying Washington was "looking forward" to Chen's arrival.
"We also express our appreciation for the manner in which we were able to resolve this matter and to support Mr. Chen's desire to study in the U.S. and pursue his goals," it said.
U.S. President Barack Obama's administration had feared a standoff over Chen's fate could sour already strained ties with China and generate criticism of Obama's policies. Beijing has accused Washington of meddling in its affairs in the case.
Chen's abrupt departure for the airport came nearly three weeks after he arrived at the Chaoyang Hospital from the U.S. embassy, where he had taken refuge after an escape from 19 months under house arrest in his home village.
Chen, 40, who taught himself law, was a leading advocate of the rights defense movement. He gained prominence by campaigning for farmers and disabled citizens and exposing forced abortions.
He was jailed for a little over four years from 2006 on what he and his supporters say were trumped-up charges designed to end his rights advocacy.
He had accused Shandong officials in 2005 of forcing women to have late-term abortions and sterilizations to comply with strict family-planning policies. Authorities moved against him with charges of whipping up a crowd that disrupted traffic and damaged property.
Formally released in 2010, he remained under house arrest in his home village, which officials turned into a fortress of walls, security cameras and guards in plain clothes.
POLICE AT THE AIRPORT
United Airlines flight UA 88 departed around 5.50 p.m. (0950 GMT), with police officers and plainclothes officers following passengers down the mobile corridor leading to the plane's door.
The cabin crew waited for passengers to take their seats before closing the curtain to the front section, where the business class seats were located, a Reuters witness said.
Chen had earlier told Reuters he was at the airport along with his wife, two children and hospital staff and he believed he would be put on a flight to the United States.
Two police cars were stationed below the walkway to the plane, and about 10 security officials in plainclothes circulated around the airport.
Passengers at the gate to Chen's flight appeared not to know that he would be on the same flight.
"If our country is a body, his plight is like a sickness that in the future will help the body to protect and strengthen itself," said Xi Jingwen, who was awaiting to board a flight to the United States, when asked about Chen Guangcheng.
Chen's confinement, his escape and the furor that ensued have made him part of China's dissident folklore: a blind prisoner outfoxing Communist Party controls in an echo of the man who stood down an army tank near Tiananmen Square in 1989.
The Chen case comes at a tricky time for China, which is engaged in a leadership change. The carefully choreographed transition has already been knocked out of step by the downfall of ambitious senior Communist Party official Bo Xilai in a scandal linked to the apparent murder of a British businessman.
On a number of occasions in recent years, authorities have relented to diplomatic pressure and allowed high-profile dissidents to leave China, knowing that its most vocal critics are effectively neutralized once they leave and are without support of friends.
At times, Beijing has appeared to use these deals as bargaining chips in broader diplomatic negotiations or to blunt criticism of its human rights record.
Chen's supporters, however, welcomed his departure, saying he had indicated that he would like to return to China.
"I even told him...that he has to do a repeat of him scaling walls. If not, we wouldn't be able to believe it," Nanjing-based activist He Peirong said of her earlier conversation with Chen. She was one of six activists who drove Chen from Shandong to Beijing after his escape.
Phelim Kine, senior Asia researcher at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said "getting Chen Guangcheng and his family on a plane is the easiest part of this saga.
"The harder, longer term part is ensuring his right under international law to return to China when he sees fit," Kine said in an emailed statement.
Kine urged Western countries to ensure that Chen's relatives, friends and supporters secured due protection.
The U.S. embassy had earlier thought it had stuck a deal to allow Chen to stay in China without retribution, but that fell apart as Chen grew worried about his family's safety. He changed his mind about staying and asked to travel to the United States.
Human rights are a big factor in relations between China and the United States, even though Washington needs China's help on issues such as Iran, North Korea, Sudan and the global economy.
The village of Dongshigu, where Chen's mother and other relatives remain, is still under lockdown.
Chen's nephew, Chen Kegui, was denied his family's choice of lawyers on Friday to defend a charge of "intentional homicide", the latest in a series of moves to deny him legal representation, and underscores the hardline stance taken against the blind dissident's family.
(Additional reporting by Chris Buckley and Michael Martina in BEIJING and Arshad Mohammed in WASHINGTON,; Editing by Ron Popeski)
NEW YORK - A blind Chinese legal activist who escaped house arrest, endured a nearly monthlong diplomatic tussle and a hurried daylong flight paused ever so briefly upon his arrival in New York City before taking up a familiar fight.
Taken from a hospital in his homeland and put on a plane for the U.S. after Chinese authorities suddenly told him Saturday to pack and prepare to leave, Chen Guangcheng embraced his new surroundings at New York University and renewed his call to fight injustice.
"I believe that no matter how difficult the environment nothing is impossible if you put your heart to it," he told a cheering crowd at NYU shortly after arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport on Saturday evening.
"We should link our arms to continue in the fight for the goodness in the world and to fight against injustice. So, I think that all people should apply themselves to this end to work for the common good worldwide."
Chen was suddenly allowed to leave China earlier in the day, ending a dispute that tested U.S.-China relations.
Dressed in a white shirt and khaki pants and using crutches, his right leg in a cast, Chen was greeted with cheers when he arrived at the apartment in Manhattan's Greenwich Village where he will live with his family. The complex houses faculty and graduate students of New York University, where Chen is expected to attend law school.
"For the past seven years, I have never had a day's rest," Chen said through a translator, "so I have come here for a bit of recuperation for body and in spirit."
Chen thanked the U.S. and Chinese governments, along with the embassies of Switzerland, Canada and France.
"After much turbulence, I have come out of Shandong," he said, referring to the Chinese province where he was under house arrest. The U.S. has granted him partial citizenship rights, he said.
Chen gave a short statement, which was greeted by cheers in Mandarin and English. He didn't take questions from reporters.
The departure of Chen, his wife and two children to the United States marked the conclusion of nearly a month of uncertainty and years of mistreatment by local authorities for the self-taught activist.
After seven years of prison and house arrest, Chen made a daring escape from his rural village in April and was given sanctuary inside the U.S. Embassy, triggering a diplomatic standoff over his fate. With Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Beijing for annual high-level discussions, officials struck a deal that let Chen walk free, only to see him have second thoughts. That forced new negotiations that led to an agreement to send him to the U.S. to study law, a goal of his, at New York University.
"Thousands of thoughts are surging to my mind," Chen said before he left China. His concerns, he said, included whether authorities would retaliate for his negotiated departure by punishing his relatives left behind. It also was unclear whether the government will allow him to return.
In New York, he said China had promised him protection of his rights as a citizen there.
"I am very gratified to see that the Chinese government has been dealing with the situation with restraint and calm, and I hope to see that they continue to open discourse and earn the respect and trust of the people."
Chen's expected attendance at New York University comes from his association with Jerome Cohen, a law professor there who advised Chen while he was in the U.S. Embassy. The two met when Chen came to the United States on a State Department program in 2003, and Cohen has been staunch advocate for him since.
Before leaving China, Chen asked his supporters and others in the activist community for their understanding of his desire to leave the front lines of the rights struggle in China.
"I am requesting a leave of absence, and I hope that they will understand," he said.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland praised the quiet negotiations that freed him.
"We also express our appreciation for the manner in which we were able to resolve this matter and to support Mr. Chen's desire to study in the U.S. and pursue his goals," Nuland said in a statement.
The White House also said it was pleased with the outcome of negotiations.
China's Foreign Ministry said it had no comment. The government's news agency, Xinhua, issued a brief report saying that Chen "has applied for study in the United States via normal channels in line with the law."
Chen's supporters welcomed his departure. "This is great progress," said U.S.-based rights activist Bob Fu. "It's a victory for freedom fighters."
The 40-year-old Chen is emblematic of a new breed of activists that the Communist Party finds threatening. Often from rural and working-class families, these "rights defenders," as they are called, are unlike the students and intellectuals from the elite academies and major cities of previous democracy movements and thus could potentially appeal to ordinary Chinese.
Chen gained recognition for crusading for the disabled and for farmers' rights and fighting against forced abortions in his rural community. That angered local officials, who seemed to wage a personal vendetta against him, convicting him in 2006 on what his supporters say were fabricated charges and then holding him for the past 20 months in illegal house arrest.
Even with the backstage negotiations, Chen's departure came hastily. Chen spent the last 2 1/2 weeks in a hospital for the foot he broke escaping house arrest. Only on Wednesday did Chinese authorities help him complete the paperwork needed for his passport.
Chen said by telephone Saturday that he was informed at the hospital just before noon to pack his bags to leave. Officials did not give him and his family passports or inform them of their flight details until after they got to the airport.
Seeming ambivalent, Chen said that he was "not happy" about leaving and that he had a lot on his mind, including worries about retaliation against his extended family back home. His nephew, Chen Kegui, is accused of attempted murder after he allegedly used a kitchen knife to attack officials who stormed his house after discovering Chen Guangcheng was missing.
"I hope that the government will fulfill the promises it made to me, all of its promises," Chen said. Such promises included launching an investigation into abuses against him and his family in Shandong province, he said before the phone call was cut off.
Much as Chen has said he wants return to China, it remains uncertain whether the Chinese government would bar him, as they have done with many exiled activists.
"Chen's departure for the U.S. does not and should not in any way mark a `mission accomplished' moment for the U.S. government," said Phelim Kine, a senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The harder, longer-term part is ensuring his right under international law to return to China when he sees fit."
NEW YORK, May 30, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Blind Chinese forced-abortion opponent Chen Guangcheng told CNN last week of his severe maltreatment at the hands of Chinese officials, saying the condition of his illegal detainment was “beyond imagination” - words that CNN’s viewers in China were able to hear.
Chen, who flew to America this week after his dramatic escape from oppression in his home village, told CNN that it was hard to describe the abuse he suffered there, which had included severe beatings and lack of access to medical attention despite injuries and illness.
“It’s hard for me to describe what it was like during that time. But let’s just say that my suffering was beyond imagination,” Chen said.
He also described his relief at being able to experience the pleasures of freedom.
“I haven’t been able to feel (nature) for a long time,” said Chen. “I had some time to soak in the sun and feel the breeze. I just felt I hadn’t been able to do that in so long. I have missed out for too long. “
The blind lawyer objected to calling his recent situation “house arrest,” since he had not been charged with a crime during the 19 months he was forced to stay in his home. “When we talk about my situation, in the future, let’s not use the word house arrest, but instead let’s use the term illegal detention,” he said.
Prior to the interview, CNN’s Anderson Cooper encouraged viewers to keep an eye on its live broadcast in China, represented at the bottom of the screen: “We’re showing it to you because, in the past, when we have reported on Mr. Chen, the Chinese government has cut off our live transmission. They have censored us. So as you watch this interview, you can also watch to see if China will censor or broadcast yet again.”
The broadcast also highlighted the incident last year when actor Christian Bale, accompanied by CNN camera crews, attempted to visit Chen in his village only to be roughed up and driven away by guards.
Chen, who drew down the ire of the Chinese government for filing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of forced-abortion victims, said that he was surprised that China “would disregard the law so blatantly” after he was arrested and jailed for four years on sham charges.
Chen reiterated his concern for his family members, and expressed gratitude for friends who have heroically fought to claim responsibility for Chen’s escape to protect others.
“When a group of people come together and accomplish something, they often fight for credit. But in my case, all those people who went to Shandong to pick me, up when the news broke they were fighting for risk and not credit,” he said. “They were all trying to claim responsibility to make others safer. I think this shows me hope in the growth of civil society in China.”
Cooper concluded the interview noting, “Interesting to see we were not censored this time in China.”
Chen is slated to give a speech at the Council for Foreign Relations in Manhattan on Thursday.