Washington, D.C. — Eight members of Congress are calling upon Secretary of State John Kerry to take action on behalf of the persecuted family of a blind Chinese activist who has taken refuge in America.
In April 2012, Chen Guangcheng fled to the U.S. embassy in Beijing after being placed on house arrest years prior for filing a lawsuit against the Chinese government over its one-child, forced abortion policy. He was reportedly harassed by officials while being confined to his home, prohibited from communicating with the outside world and was beaten.
A month after finding safety at the embassy, Guangcheng and his wife and children were granted visas and came to the U.S. to stay.
However, Guangcheng became concerned that the Chinese government would retaliate against family members that remained in China. He continued to speak out against human rights abuses before the U.S. Congress, including last month when he testified in Washington, D.C.
Now, a number of Congressional leaders believe that persecution of Guangcheng’s family has escalated and are urging Kerry to take action.
“Most urgent is the dire medical condition of Cheng Kegui, the imprisoned nephew of Chen Guangcheng, who is reportedly suffering from acute appendicitis,” the letter to the Secretary of State outlines. “His family is fearful that absent proper medical attention (which has been denied by Chinese authorities to date) his life is at risk.”
Kegui has served one year of a three-year sentence for protecting himself against armed intruders in his home.
“Further, it has come to our attention that on May 9th, Chen’s older brother, Chen Guangfu, was violently beaten in what seems like an escalated effort to intimidate and harm Chen Guangcheng’s family,” the correspondence continues.
The Congressmen then lay out four recommended actions for the State Department, including ensuring that Cheng Kegui is transferred to a hospital for medical care, investigating and prosecuting any Chinese official that engages in illegal acts against Guangcheng’s family, and denying U.S. entry to any Chinese government agent that engages in human rights abuses.
“Chen Guangcheng and his family have suffered greatly at the hands of Chinese officials in Shandong Province,” the letter states. “Their story is not unfamiliar, but is somewhat unique in that it has garnered international attention, in part through Chen’s heroic escape from house arrest and shone a bright light on the consistent human rights abuses endured by the Chinese people.”
“It has further revealed in stark terms a troubling trend of Chinese officials abusing, harassing, and intimidating the families of human rights activists in order to try to pressure these brave men and women into abandoning their important work,” it adds.
The bi-partisan effort is signed by Speaker of the House John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Republican Representative Frank Wolf of Virginia, Democratic Representative Joseph Crowley of New York, Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Democratic Representative James McGovern of Massachusetts, Republican Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey and Democratic Representative Rick Larsen of Washington.