“Ultimately, if Chen and his family’s desire to live a safe and “normal life” can only be achieved outside China, that will be a real indictment of the Chinese government’s commitment to the rule of law and protecting the human rights of all citizens.”
So said Catherine Baber, Amnesty’s Asia Deputy Director, earlier in the week and it couldn’t have proven more prophetic. Here we are, at the end of the week, and things have moved on apace. At first, people were speculating that Chen Guancheng could be a resident at the US embassy in China for a very long time – years even, but by Wednesday, he was out and in hospital.
Today, the media is reporting that Chen is likely to be “allowed” to leave for the US on a student visa. That would be the best outcome of a bad situation. But how did we get to this point in the first place? It’s worth remembering that Chen’s house arrest wasn’t even legal. He had been held under brutal conditions, his wife and daughter petrified of their captors, and his wife allegedly brutally beaten - at one point so badly that they broke a bone in her face. No one had been allowed to visit him and he was even denied basic medical care.
Reports that Chen and his family are now afraid and would prefer to leave their own country are understandable. For him, the shear unprecedented weight of international pressure might make that a possibility.
But Amnesty remains intensely concerned about reports that authorities have surrounded the home of activist and Chen’s supporter, Zeng Jinyan. Also, we are concerned about Chen’s friend, He Peirong, who has reportedly been detained in her home since helping him escape from illegal house arrest.
Chen’s older brother is believed to be in police custody while the whereabouts of his nephew and mother are unknown.
Hot off the press, here is a statement from Catherine Baber, this evening, in which she calls the pledge that Chen will be kept safe “empty” if retaliation against his family and supporters continues.
“The hurried negotiations earlier this week have partly led to the uncertainty surrounding Chen’s fate. The US must tell the world exactly what the Chinese government has promised regarding Chen and his family, who made those promises, and, crucially, what concrete steps the US will take to ensure that Chen Guangcheng and his family can lead the life they want to live.
“The Chinese government has proven over and over that they have no regard for Chen Guangcheng’s safety or freedom. For more than seven years, this man has been either under illegal house arrest or in prison for no reason other than trying to use the law to protect the legal rights - and human rights - of his fellow Chinese.”
Chen might have left the embassy in Beijing, but there was a group of him at the Chinese embassy here in London this afternoon to insist that he is protected and allowed to move and associate freely (see picture). You can take action for Chen by emailing the Chinese Embassy in the UK, or leave Chen a voice message.
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