U.S. Leaves Chen in Limbo
Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese human rights activist and self-taught lawyer, is in limbo as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama continue their malfeasance of human rights in the drama unfolding in China.
In 2005, Mr. Chen was arrested for exposing the brutal truth behind China's one-child policy. He carefully documented the evidence of forced abortion policies by local family planning officials desperate to meet birth control quotas through late-term abortions and sterilizations. Since his arrest, he was imprisoned for four years, and he has endured beatings, intimidation, and illegal house arrest.
Then, on April 22, 2012, Mr. Chen escaped his captors and fled. He released a videotape on YouTube on April 26, revealing details of his illegal house detention, which included brutal beatings of family members -- beatings which resulted in broken bones -- and harassment of his children. In the video, he expressed fears of retribution against his family because he had escaped.
It was confirmed on April 27 that Mr. Chen was under the protection of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He remained in the embassy until May 2, when it was reported that he left "of his own volition" and indicated that he wanted to stay in China. That's when the story becomes muddled.
He was taken to a hospital to have his foot treated for injuries he sustained during his escape and thought a U.S. representative would remain with him at the hospital, but none did. The State Department said the Chinese government had given assurances that it would treat Mr. Chen and his family humanely and that they would be allowed to move to another city, where Mr. Chen would go to law school.
Secretary Clinton said, "I am pleased that we were able to facilitate Chen Guangcheng's stay and departure from the U.S. Embassy in a way that reflected his choices and our values."
After being deserted by the U.S. embassy staff at the hospital, Mr. Chen changed his mind about staying in China. The Chinese government placed dozens of security officers outside his hospital room and prevented journalists and visitors from entering. In a phone interview with the Associated Press, Mr. Chen said he agreed to the deal to leave the embassy only after threats to his family were relayed to him. He was told that if he didn't leave the embassy, the Chinese government would send his wife and children back to their home in Shandong -- the home where they were held under illegal house arrest for 19 months.
It appears that the assurances of Mr. Chen's safety and that of his family are questionable.
During her opening address at talks with the Chinese leaders, Secretary Clinton did not mention Mr. Chen, but merely mentioned tersely that the "importance of human rights" would be part of the talks.
Now is the time for the Obama administration to stand up to China, defend the rule of law, and denounce the myriad human rights abuses China perpetrates on its citizens, not the least of whom are the victims of their one-child policy. Forced abortions and sterilizations constitute monstrous violence against the human rights of women. Illegal house arrest and beatings of citizen activists are an affront to the rule of law and barbaric violation of basic civil liberties.
Will Secretary Clinton, speaking on behalf of the Obama administration, stand up for individual freedom and human dignity? After Obama's history of abandoning Iranian and Syrian protesters, human rights activists around the world can only hold their breath and hope for change. This challenge will provide the administration an opportunity to redress -- at least partially -- its previous nonfeasance and give the American electorate a clear test case of its fitness to be the steward of the American ideal of "liberty and justice for all."
Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D. is author of Children at Risk (2010) and Marriage Matters (2012). She is a columnist and political commentator who heads the think-tank for Concerned Women for America.