- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who was at the heart of a major diplomatic tug-of-war between Beijing and Washington a year ago, on Tuesday accused the Chinese government of breaking a promise not to harm his family.

While testifying before the House Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee, Mr. Chen, who now lives in the U.S., also urged the U.S. government to pressure China to improve on human rights.

“We cannot continue to tolerate the Chinese communist authorities continuing to go back on their words and deceiving the international community at will,” Mr. Chen told the panel, speaking in his native Mandarin while his comments were repeated by a translator in English.

“When the Chinese Communist Central Party Committee can act like this in breaking its promises to me, to the United States and to the whole world and when it can willfully break agreements in a case that has attracted the world’s attention, how can we expect it to improve the human rights situation in other areas and to take up its international responsibilities and obligations?”

Mr. Chen, 41, an outspoken civil rights activist, was imprisoned in China for more than four years after he criticized the Chinese government’s family-planning practices, which he and others claim often involve forced abortions.

A self-taught lawyer and blind since infancy, he caused a diplomatic crisis last April after a dramatic escape from house arrest in rural China before securing refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. China later allowed him to come to the U.S. to study law.

Mr. Chen said that as part of Beijing’s agreement to let him come to the U.S., Chinese authorities promised not to retaliate against his family and supporters left behind. He said they also promised to investigate acts of persecution against himself and his family at the hands of Chinese regional authorities.

Instead, he said, Chinese authorities continually have intimidated, abused and tortured members of his family, including his nephew, Chen Kegui, who was sentenced to several years in prison after he was accused of attacking authorities with a knife.

Chen Guangcheng said the knife “attack” was self-defense after officials barged into his nephew’s house and brutally beat him. He added none of the officials were seriously hurt.

“I hereby urge the U.S. government to solemnly demand that the Chinese communist leaders do as they promised,” he said.

Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican and chairman of the House panel, called Mr. Chen a “hero.”

“It took a blind man, the great Chen Guangcheng, to open the eyes of a blind world to these human rights violations systematically inflicted on Chinese woman,” Mr. Smith said. “Mr. Chen’s daring escape to the U.S. Embassy, his miraculous evasion of China’s ubiquitous secret police en route is the stuff of legend and superheroes.”

Geng He, wife of imprisoned Christian human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, also told the subcommittee Tuesday that Chinese officials routinely torture her husband and that police for years lived in her home to monitor her family. She fled China with her two children in 2009.

“Gao Zhisheng has all along been a political prisoner of conscience under the strict control of the Chinese communist authorities,” she said through an interpreter. “I appeal to the international community to persist in paying continuous attention to Lawyer Gao Zhisheng as this is the best way to protect him.”

Email and telephone inquiries to the Chinese Embassy in Washington seeking a response to the accusations weren’t successful.