WASHINGTON – The White House has failed to respond properly to human rights abuses in China, said experts at a recent Capitol Hill hearing.
Chen Guangcheng and Geng He gave testimonies illustrating the brutality of the Chinese regime before a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee April 9. Although the hearing focused on their treatment, it also highlighted what the current administration should do to demand human rights protection in China.
“We requested that President Obama personally meet with Geng He and Chen Guangcheng during their visit to Washington,” said Jared Genser, founder of Freedom Now, which seeks the release of prisoners of conscience. “In my view, such a meeting would send a clear, unequivocal message that the continued targeting of rights lawyers and their families by Chinese authorities would no longer be tolerated by the international community.”
The meeting never took place, which disappointed Genser. As a “superpower” country, America must fight for the human rights of all people, especially in countries like China that claim to be law-abiding and are not, he said.
“We cannot continue to tolerate the Chinese Communist authorities continuing to go back on their words and deceiving the international community at will,” Chen said. “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?”
The United States must “increase the pressure” on the Chinese government, Genser told members of the House subcommittee that addresses global human rights.
“At the end of the day, it is quite clear and very apparent and very sad to say that without executive leadership from the president of the United States, I fear that people like Chen Guangcheng, Geng He and their families will not obtain the relief that they so desperately need,” Genser said.
Guangcheng is a self-taught lawyer who advocated for victims of forced sterilization and abortion, as well as for other women, the poor and the disabled in China. He is best known for his organization of a class-action lawsuit in the province of Shandong against violent enforcement of the “one-child,” coercive population control policy. In 2006, he was placed under house arrest and not allowed a lawyer. He was sentenced to four years and three months of prison. After his release in 2010, Chen was placed under house arrest again. He left China for New York City with his wife and two children in May 2012 following negotiations between the U.S. and China.
Geng fled China with her two children. Her husband is still detained and being tortured by Chinese authorities. On Feb. 14, she testified on behalf of her husband to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. She described how the police in China monitored her children, explaining the emotional and mental distress her daughter went through from being escorted to school by police.
The Chinese government has not taken lightly the fact that Chen and Geng are now in the United States. The Chinese Foreign Ministry demanded the U.S. apologize for “harboring” Chen. It also wanted to launch an investigation about how Chen got to the embassy.
“What the U.S. side has done has interfered in the domestic affairs of China, and the Chinese side will never accept it,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told the Associated Press.
Some of the Chinese government acts – such as forced abortions and arrests of human rights lawyers – are looked down upon by the international community, and the U.S. has stepped in to attempt to make sure there are no human rights violations. Critics, however, say the American government could do more.
“Unless and until a clear, unequivocal and consistent message on human rights is delivered to the Chinese government – complete with benchmarks, timelines and consequences for inaction – we should not expect its behavior to change,” Genser said.
T. Kumar, international advocacy director for Amnesty International, said the Chinese authorities should “allow human rights defenders and their families to carry out their peaceful work without fear of hindrance, intimidation, arbitrary detention or imprisonment, in line with the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Tonika Reed is an intern with the Washington bureau of Baptist Press.)