Chen Guangcheng, blind Chinese activist, calls into Hill hearing again

An image of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng is displayed at a hearing on by the Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights on Capitol Hill. Chen called into a U.S. congressional hearing for the second time in two weeks on Tuesday. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng called into a U.S. congressional hearing for the second time in two weeks Tuesday and said his relatives have been persecuted in retaliation for his escape from house arrest.

He expressed particular concern for his nephew, Chen Kegui, who has been arrested and accused of intent to murder, charges the activist called “trumped up.” He said Chinese authorities have threatened and harassed lawyers attempting to represent his nephew, making it all but impossible for them to see him.

Chen Guangcheng said such tactics are similar to what local officials used against him when they were trying to silence his work against forced abortions and coercive sterilization of women.

Chen became the focus of international attention after he escaped house arrest last month and took sanctuary at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. The week-long diplomatic showdown between the United States and China ended in a tentative agreement for Chen to leave China to study in the United States. But in the days since, he has remained isolated at a Beijing hospital, awaiting passports from the Chinese government for him, his wife and their two children.

U.S. officials finished processing his visa more than a week ago, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday. “We are ready when he and his government are ready,” she said. “Our information is that those conversations, contacts and processing [with the Chinese government] continue, and we’ve been in regular contact with him two or three times a day every day.”

Family members say the activist’s nephew injured plainclothes officers who burst into his father’s home without warrant after Chen’s escape. Other relatives, including Chen’s older brother and sister-in-law, remain under house arrest and are being watched.

Speaking via cellphone at Tuesday’s hearing, Chen said his immediate family is doing well. After nearly two years under a harsh and illegal form of house arrest, his children are enjoying their time at the hospital, he said. “They keep telling my wife and I, ‘This is a great place because you can play outside.’ ”

The hearing, chaired by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, included criticism from the New Jersey Republican about the Obama administration’s record on human rights and its handling of Chen’s situation. Witnesses included Christian Chinese dissidents who are active in the underground “house church” movement and activists opposing China’s one-child policy, which has led to abuses such as forced abortions.

Speaking a few days earlier, Smith said he decided to hold the hearing in part to highlight the legal fight against forced abortions that had gotten Chen in trouble in the first place. “This administration has tried to hermetically seal the man they were negotiating for from his cause,” the congressman said.

Some China experts expressed concerns that Chen may be unprepared for the intense spotlight awaiting him in the United States if China allows him to leave, especially given election-year politics and the controversy over how his case was handled.

“Politicians of every stripe are going to try to claim him,” said Susan Shirk, who was deputy assistant secretary of state under President Bill Clinton. “I think he’ll have to be cautious about that. He may not necessarily understand the complexities of U.S. politics he’ll be wading into.”

More world news coverage:

- India to buy less oil from Iran

- Syrian rebels get influx of arms thanks in part to U.S.

- Rebekah Brooks charged in phone-hacking scandal

- Read more headlines from around the world

William Wan is the Post's roving national correspondent, based in Washington, D.C. He previously served as the paper’s religion reporter and diplomatic correspondent and for three years as the Post’s China correspondent in Beijing.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read World



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.