Leaders of Bipartisan Commission Call on China To Release Human Rights Lawyer, Chen Guangcheng

The Chairman and Cochairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China today (November 1) issued the following joint statement calling for updated information on prominent human rights defender Chen Guangcheng’s condition and calling for Chen’s long overdue release.

Chen Guangcheng
“It is very troubling to know that for six years, Chen Guangcheng has repeatedly encountered abuse and surveillance from Chinese officials. Recent reports in international media have shown that those who have attempted to visit him have been met with physical attacks and harassment. This and the government’s attempts to deter people from voicing their support for him online are deplorable,” said New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith who chairs the Commission.
“The increasing inability to obtain any verified information about Chen’s status has led many to believe that the conditions and treatment for Chen and his wife, Yuan Weijing, who have already endured inexplicably harsh conditions, may actually have gotten worse—if that is possible. The Chinese authorities have gone into overdrive using every restrictive control in their attempt to silence Chen and Yuan. We are gravely concerned about Chen’s status and urge Chinese officials to not only provide the proof that neither he nor his family have been harmed but also set them free. The continued lack of information about their well-being must end,” Smith said.
“We are extremely concerned about the conditions under which Chen Guangcheng and his family are being held by the government. We are also aware of reports indicating that government officials are building a separate facility outside the family’s home, and that they plan to move Chen and his wife into this facility soon for enhanced security. We are especially concerned about the effect this control is having on the entire family, including Chen and Yuan’s young daughter. We join Chinese citizens in demanding immediate transparency and explanation from the Chinese government regarding his case,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, the Cochairman of the Commission.
“In light of the stonewalling on information about Chen and Yuan, as well as the mistreatment they have already suffered, we urge the Chinese government to release Chen Guangcheng and his family from extralegal detention in their home and allow journalists and others to visit them freely,” the U.S. lawmakers said.
In 2005, legal advocate Chen Guangcheng drew international news media attention to population planning abuses in Linyi city, Shandong province. He has also advocated on behalf of farmers, the disabled, and other groups. Local authorities placed Chen under “house arrest” in September 2005 and formally arrested him in June 2006. Following a trial and retrial which prompted repeated criticism for procedural violations, Chen served four years and three months in prison on charges of “intentional destruction of property” and “organizing a group of people to disturb traffic order.”
Authorities released Chen on September 9, 2010, after he completed his sentence, but have continued to extralegally confine him in his home in Dongshigu village outside of Linyi. Since February 2011, reports have emerged indicating that Chen and his wife, Yuan Weijing, have been beaten, locked inside their home, and subjected to round-the-clock surveillance by local public security personnel. Authorities reportedly had also prevented their young daughter from attending primary school until recently. Chen reportedly continues to suffer from an intestinal illness that he contracted while in prison, but has not been permitted to seek medical treatment for it.