Contact: Sharon Singh, [email protected], 202-675-8579
(Washington, D.C.) — Amnesty International today calls on the United States to guarantee Chen Guangcheng's safety and insist that China protect the rights of the activist and his family, amid reports the Chinese activist escaped from illegal house arrest last week into American diplomatic protection in China.
"The U.S. government has a moral obligation to ensure that Chen Guangcheng, his family and any who aided his Houdini-like escape from house arrest are either granted asylum in the United States or are not mistreated if they choose to stay in China," said Frank Jannuzi, head of the Washington D.C. office of Amnesty International. "Any other outcome would be another setback for China's human rights movement."
Chen is best known for exposing forced abortion and sterilization practices in Shandong Province, and for seeking legal redress for the victims. He gave legal support to many whose rights have been violated, including farmers forcibly removed from their land without due process or compensation.
When Chen escaped last week he had been under illegal house arrest for 19 months. His home had become a virtual prison for him, his wife and daughter.
"China cannot successfully address the many challenges it faces as long as courageous advocates for justice like Chen are persecuted, rather than celebrated," added Jannuzi. "Those fighting for rule of law and freedom of expression in China should be welcomed by Beijing, not driven into refuge abroad."
After his escape, Chen Guangcheng issued a video in which he confirmed the horrendous treatment that he and his family had experienced for months.
His wife, Yuan Weijing had once been wrapped up in a blanket and kicked for hours by plain-clothed security forces. His daughter was followed to and from school every day by three plain-clothed police; her bags were thoroughly searched each time she left the house.
Chen himself was prevented from seeking medical treatment, and the couple were prevented from meeting their wider family, including their young son, living elsewhere with an aunt to attend school.
In the video, Chen Guangcheng expresses fear for his family's safety, including his wife and daughter, both of whom he fears are still captive and could become targets for "revenge" by the authorities.
"It is time for Chen and his family to be allowed to live a free and normal life, including remaining in China, if that is their wish," said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International's Asia Pacific deputy director. "Ultimately, if Chen and his family can only achieve a safe and "normal life" outside China, that will be a real indictment of the Chinese government's commitment to the rule of law.
In two days the United States and China will hold their Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) in Beijing, dubbed a "whole government" affair. Development of the rule of law in China and reliable routes to justice for Chinese citizens is a strategic priority of global significance.
The U.S. and other governments should insist not only on the protection of Chen Guangcheng's human rights, but also for the immediate release of all individuals detained in connection with his escape.
Reports suggest that his brother, Chen Guangfu, is still in detention, as is He Peirong, who reports she met Chen after his escape and drove him to Beijing. Chen's nephew, Chen Kegui, who fled when police came to his home after Chen's escape, is still unaccounted for.