Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng appealed to Congress on Tuesday to press the Obama administration to release what he said were high-level diplomatic agreements made with China when then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton negotiated his departure from China nearly a year ago.
U.S. diplomats told him at the time that Beijing would promise in writing not to harm members of his family after he left and to investigate the years of persecution against him, Chen told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee.
Since then, he said, family members have been beaten and harassed and several of them have been tortured and threatened. He said his nephew Chen Kegui was sentenced to more than three years in prison on what Chen called “trumped-up charges” after trying to defend himself against government-sanctioned thugs.
“We cannot continue to tolerate the Chinese communist authorities continuing to go back on their word and deceiving the international community at will,” Chen said in prepared testimony.
He asked the panel to obtain “and publish the written and oral diplomatic agreements between China and the United States with regard to this incident of mine,” including a letter he wrote to China’s then-premier, Wen Jiabao, after seeking refuge in the U.S. Embassy compound.
The administration has never fully described the hectic events of last April, when Chen sought refuge in the embassy. He was then taken to a local hospital and finally granted a visa to the United States and allowed to leave.
Clinton became involved in the incident, which coincided with a scheduled visit to China. She and other diplomats were credited with defusing what threatened to become a major bilateral crisis.
The State Department did not reply immediately to Chen’s remarks.
Chen, who is blind, has kept a relatively low profile since arriving in the United States. He and his wife live with their two children in student housing at New York University, where he studies English.
Accompanied by a translator and reading from an electronic device with his hands, Chen testified in Chinese. He began by recalling that he twice spoke to the subcommittee by telephone during his hospitalization last year in China. “This room helps me remember things from the past,” he said. “I’m very grateful that this year I’m actually here.”
A self-taught lawyer, Chen long advocated for the rights of the poor and women in China. He is especially known for exposing family-planning abuses, including forced abortions that are part of China’s one-child policy.
Those activities led to his arrest in 2005. Chen’s attorneys were forbidden access to the court, and he was sentenced to more than four years in prison. Released in 2010, he remained under house arrest, despite appeals for his release from the United States, other governments and international human rights organizations, until he escaped and fled to the embassy.
Geng He, the wife of imprisoned Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, testified alongside Chen. She described her husband’s repeated kidnappings, imprisonment and torture for his efforts to defend persecuted Christians and other religious groups.