Congress greets Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng

McClatchy NewspapersAugust 1, 2012 

— Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng spoke out against the Chinese government and its human rights abuses in a meeting with House of Representatives leaders and lawmakers Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

“The human rights situation in China is deteriorating,” Chen said through a translator. “Great cruelty has resulted from efforts to maintain social stability, resulting in a situation in which there is no ethics, rule of law or justice. This has led to an increasing number of people whose rights have been violated. And these people will rise up and protest.”

Chen escaped house arrest in April and fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He’d been under house arrest for two years after being imprisoned for organizing a class-action lawsuit against the government for the way it enforced the country’s one-child policy. In May, Chen and his family were allowed to travel to the United States. He’s accused China of denying him a fair trial, torturing his family and him and attempting to kidnap his nephew.

The Chinese government still hasn’t addressed his case, he said, even though government officials promised him there’d be an investigation into his abuse charges.

“If a case as high profile as mine cannot be properly handled in accordance with Chinese law and with international legal norms, how will we be able to believe that China will respect human rights and the rule of law?” Chen said.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, hosted Chen along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other lawmakers. Boehner led Chen, who is blind, into the news conference arm in arm.

“While our economic relationship with China is important, the United States has an obligation to engage China and press for democratic reforms and improvement in its human rights practices,” Boehner said. “The Chinese government has a responsibility to do better, and the United States government has a responsibility to hold them accountable.”

Pelosi noted the bipartisan nature of the meeting.

“I don’t often say this, Mr. Speaker, but I do wish to associate myself with your comments, because I think that you said very well all that our country stands for,” she said.

Chen expressed his hopes that international pressure will give way to change in China.

“As more and more Chinese people are not afraid to stand up and assert their rights, change in China is inevitable,” he said. “Therefore at this critical point of transition in Chinese society, I sincerely hope that the United States and all other nations that embrace the fundamental values of constitutionalism, democracy and freedom . . .will support and assist with a smooth transition in China.”

Email: arudansky@mcclatchydc.com.

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