by Kathleen Gilbert (LifeSiteNews.com) – Chen Guangcheng and his family nearly lost everything for attempting to expose one of China’s most horrific secrets. Now as the blind dissident fades from international headlines this week in diplomatic limbo, one human rights leader is determined to keep the cause Chen has devoted his life to from fading as well.
LifeSiteNews.com on Friday evening spoke with Congressman Chris Smith, who has worked for years to raise Chen’s visibility as part of a decades-long struggle on Capitol Hill against the Communist country’s one-child policy.
Smith was highly critical of the Obama administration’s sweep-it-under-the-rug attitude towards Chen in the face of high-level talks in Beijing the same week.
“From the very beginning was this hurry up attitude,” he said. “I was told he wanted to talk to me. So I placed a call, it never got through, I left a message with the right people as to why I was calling, never got to talk to him. And he said other people had tried to get to him.”
If U.S. embassy officials had let Smith speak with Chen as the human rights activist had wished, Smith said, he would have warned him against his decision last Wednesday to step back onto Chinese soil.
Once he did speak to Chen, said Smith, “He told me, ‘They were up all night working on this. They barely got any sleep.’ I said, Chen, that’s not necessarily a good thing. They’re trying to get you out of the embassy to get this resolved before the big summit because you can’t let Chen Guangcheng complicate the summit.
“That’s what the summit should have revolved around.”
“Here’s a guy who’s been traumatized, almost beaten to death several times, and very seasoned diplomats are talking to him about his options – I think he needed a true time of reflection,” he said.
Chen’s future is still precariously uncertain. Although several U.S. universities offered him fellowships – a typical safety valve for vulnerable dissidents, according to Smith – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton left China this weekend without Chen and his family on her plane, as Chen had said he ardently hoped he would be.
Meanwhile, according to the latest reports, Chen remains under police lockdown in a Beijing hospital with his two children and wife – a unity won at a high price. Chinese officials had threatened to send his wife back into the hands of guards in their hometown if he did not leave the U.S. embassy he fled to after 19 months of extra-judicial home imprisonment, beatings, and other mistreatment.
Smith also said that Chen was extremely worried about his extended family, including his mother and nephew, the latter of whom has been detained and Chen fears is being tortured.
Although emphatic that Chen and his family must be rescued, Smith said the affair was in a way less about one man’s drama than the dirty secret China was hoping to hide.
The maltreatment of forced-abortion opponent Chen Guangcheng, he said, serves to highlight the Communist country’s sensitivity over its population control policy, which several investigations have confirmed includes the routine forced abortion of women, even through the ninth month of pregnancy.
“This could be a pivotal moment getting the world to see that” forced abortions are among “the worst crimes against humanity,” said Smith.
Smith said he was optimistic that Chen and at least his immediate family would be allowed to flee China because “the Chinese realized that the firestorm of complaint and scrutiny” surrounding Chen revealed the “underlying issue, which is forced abortions and involuntary sterilizations.”
“They want to keep that under wraps,” he said.
Smith, who has worked against the one-child policy for the last 30 years, described a Communist regime “obsessed with population control” – and one that regarded mention of the policy in diplomatic talks “the unpardonable sin.”
During one trip, Smith recounted the “sore nerve” he and Rep. Frank Wolf struck with China’s premier at the time, Li Peng, when abortions under the one-child policy were mentioned.
“He made outrageous statements like, there’s more abortions in America than in China,” he said. Similarly, Peng Peiyun, Chairperson of National Population and Family Planning Commission, told Smith in a different meeting that “you’re making it up, you’re lying about it.”
China “without doubt” had the one-child policy at the forefront of its mind in dealing with the Chen crisis, Smith said. “I know for a fact because I’ve been fighting it for three decades,” he said.