Chinese Dissident Concerned About Relatives, China Responds

Posted May 16th, 2012 at 6:10 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

China pushed back Wednesday against accusations made by blind dissident Chen Guangcheng, after he pleaded his case to a U.S. congressional hearing for the second time in less than two weeks.

Chen told U.S. lawmakers via telephone from his Beijing hospital on Tuesday that he is concerned about the safety of his family, saying both his nephew and older brother have been beaten by Chinese authorities.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said the U.S. – not China – should be blamed for the incident, again repeating Beijing's position that Washington interfered in China's internal affairs.

“On the Chen Guangcheng case, China has made its position known many times. This case again shows the U.S. interference in China's internal affairs and we demand the U.S. handle competent personnel responsible for the issue and prevent similar incidents from happening again with similar measures. China is a country of the rule of law. The constitution and Chinese laws ensure citizens' legitimate rights and interests and at the same time they should also abide by laws and regulations.”

In an interview with VOA on Tuesday, Chen said U.S. diplomats are holding discussions with Chinese officials on plans for him to travel to New York for a teaching fellowship, but have been asked to maintain a low profile on the case.

Chen says he thinks the trip will take place eventually, despite the lack of substantial progress. U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Tuesday that the U.S. has finished processing his visa paperwork and that it has been ready for more than a week.

Although he did not voice concern over his own conditions, Chen said his older brother is blocked from going outside because of murder charges brought against his son. Chen says the charges against his nephew are unfounded and that he has contacted a lawyer who has agreed to take up the case, despite pressure from authorities.

Chen was given a four-year prison sentence in 2006 for exposing abuses under China's forced abortion policy aimed at population control. He had been under house arrest since 2010, before fleeing on April 22 to the U.S. embassy in Beijing, where he remained for six days.

The self-taught legal activist agreed to depart the embassy under a deal reached by U.S. and Chinese authorities that would have allowed him to stay in a safe place in China and study law. But he changed his mind hours after leaving the embassy, saying his family had been threatened, and he wanted to go to the United States.

The activist, who has been blind since childhood, is at a Beijing hospital recovering from injuries sustained in his escape in late April.