WASHINGTON (BP) -- A member of the U.S. House of Representatives has reminded government leaders that the international ordeal Chen Guangcheng is currently facing was prompted by China's brutal "family planning" policy that includes forced abortions and unwanted sterilizations.
'Among China's many coercions and tyrannies, (the one-child policy) is the one that touches the most Chinese.' -- Rep. Chris Smith
Meanwhile, the Chinese government said Friday (May 4) that Chen may apply to study abroad, and the U.S. State Department confirmed that Chen has been offered a fellowship from an American university where he can be accompanied by his wife and two children.
Chen, a 40-year-old self-trained lawyer who has been blind since childhood, was imprisoned and then placed under house arrest for exposing the barbaric nature of China's one-child policy. In one of the most tragic examples Chen had helped uncover, the government forced a woman who was seven months pregnant to have an abortion, and then forcibly sterilized her, LifeNews.com reported.
In his opening remarks at an emergency hearing Thursday (May 3) that later included an impromptu phone call with Chen, Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., characterized the Chinese human rights advocate's story as "extraordinary and inspirational from the beginning."
"Blinded by a childhood illness, Chen pushed past profound barriers to school himself in Chinese law and to become an advocate for the rights of the vulnerable, including disabled persons and rural farmers," Smith, chairman of the Congressional Executive Commission on China, said.
"Years later, when local villagers told him their stories of forced abortions and forced sterilizations, Chen and his wife Yuan Weijing documented these stories, later building briefs for a class-action lawsuit against the officials involved."
The couple's efforts led to international news media attention in 2005, Smith said, and "their challenge to China's draconian population control policies spurred harsh and extended official retaliation including torture and beatings."
Congress has examined China's population control policies repeatedly, Smith noted, but the practices continue.
"China's government sometimes paints a false picture for gullible foreigners that the policy is somehow being eased, but the few exceptions they permit do not fundamentally modify its rough, harsh, brutal and ugly character," the congressman said.
Smith explained that family planning officials in villages and neighborhoods "maintain an extreme vigilance to exterminate" unborn children the government does not approve.
"The English phrase they use is 'family planning,' but the plan is not the family's plan but the state's plan," Smith said. "... When an out of plan birth does take place, they impose crushing fines on the couple. All unwed mothers are compelled by the state to abort.
"Among China's many coercions and tyrannies, this is the one that touches the most Chinese -- especially women who are victimized and the girl-child who is murdered in the womb or at birth," the congressman testified. "It was when Chen Guangcheng challenged these horrific violations of women's rights that the hammer fell."
For the past seven years, Chen and his family have paid a dear price for his advocacy efforts, Smith said. Refusing to back down, Chen escaped from house arrest April 22 in order to seek help at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Read More