Secretary Clinton Should Speak Out on Chen Guangcheng Escape
Washington, D.C. –News of the escape of Chinese human rights lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, from prolonged house arrest raises crucial issues for U.S. foreign policy, said Human Rights First today. “Secretary Clinton is due to arrive in Beijing later this week – whether Chen Guangcheng is in the U.S. Embassy or not she should speak out clearly and publicly for the rights of human rights defenders in China and make clear that even if he is temporarily safe, his family and friends must not be targeted by the authorities,” said Brian Dooley of Human Rights First. “Chen’s case is a test of whether China respects the rule of law or deprives its people of liberty based on the whims of the powerful. Human rights issues continue to impede the U.S.-China relationship, and Secretary Clinton should make clear that Chen Guangcheng’s is just one of many cases that the U.S. will continue to raise with the Chinese authorities.” With the help of a number of friends and supporters, the prominent activist slipped out of his home in Shandong Province several days ago, despite guards and intense surveillance, and is reportedly in an “undisclosed” and “safe” location in Beijing. There are unconfirmed reports that Chen is in the U.S. Embassy. Chen Guancheng was one of several dissidents named by U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke in a December 2011 statement: ”…the unlawful detention of Chinese citizens such as lawyer Chen Guangcheng… [does] not bring China closer to achieving its stated goals,” said Locke. Chen Guangcheng was placed under house arrest in September, 2010. He and his family were not only confined to their home, but the local authorities frequently beat them, prevented people from seeing them, and followed his daughter to and from school. In a video message released shortly after his escape, the lawyer detailed these abuses, and voiced his concern for the family he had to leave behind, pleading that they “be kept safe.” Early reports indicated that at least four of his relatives are now under arrest, and one of the people who aided in the escape has disappeared. Human Rights First calls on Chinese authorities to stop targeting Chen Guangcheng’s relatives, release those detained, and ensure their safety, including lifting the house arrest of his immediate family.