US must insist on Chen Guangcheng's safety

Scottish Government should use growing relationship with China to call for respect of human rights

The US must guarantee Chen Guangcheng’s safety and insist China protect the rights of the activist and his family, Amnesty International said amid reports the Chinese activist escaped from illegal house arrest last week into American diplomatic protection in China.

Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific deputy director, said:

“It is time for Chen and his family to be allowed to live a free and normal life, including remaining in China if that is their wish.

“This is also a real test of the US government’s oft-stated commitment to respecting the human rights aspirations of citizens worldwide.

“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.”

Shabnum Mustapha, Programme Director for Amnesty International Scotland, said:

"Amnesty has previously raised Chen Guangcheng's case with the Scottish Government and MSPs. I hope they will use their growing relationship with China as an opportunity to call for the safety of Chen, his family and friends - whether or not they choose to remain in China.

"As Scotland continues to make cultural and economic links with the Chinese government, it is vital that human rights concerns be raised at every opportunity - including individual cases such as Chen Guangcheng's."

Chen is best known for exposing forced abortion and sterilisation practices in Linyi County, Shandong Province, and for seeking legal redress for the victims. He also gave legal support to many others whose rights have been violated, including farmers forcibly removed from their land without due process or compensation.

When Chen escaped last week he had been under illegal house arrest for 19 months. His home had become a virtual prison for him, his wife and daughter. 

After his escape, Chen Guangcheng  issued a video in which he confirmed the horrendous treatment that he and his family had experienced over months of detention.

Chen reported that his wife, Yuan Weijing had once been wrapped up in a blanket and kicked for hours by plainclothed security forces. His daughter had been followed to and from school every day by three plainclothed police; her bags were thoroughly searched each time she left the house.

During his time under house arrest, Chen was prevented from seeking medical treatment.  The couple were also prevented from meeting their wider family, including their young son, who lives elsewhere with an aunt so that he can attend school.

In the video Chen Guangcheng expresses deep concern for his family’s safety including the safety of his wife  Yuan Weijing, and his daughter, both of whom he fears are still captive and could become targets for "revenge" by the authorities.

In two days the US and China will be holding their Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing, dubbed a “whole government” affair. Development of the rule of law in China and reliable routes to justice for Chinese citizens are a strategic priority of global significance.

The US and other governments should be insisting not only on the protection of Chen Guangcheng’s human rights, but also on the immediate release of all individuals detained in connection with his escape. 

Reports suggest that his brother Chen Guangfu is still in detention, as is He Peirong, who reports she met Chen after his escape and drove him to Beijing. Chen’s nephew, Chen Kegui, who fled when police came to his home after Chen’s escape, is still unaccounted for.

Amnesty has launched a new urgent action for Chen Guangcheng at www.amnesty.org.uk/guangcheng

At the end of April 2012, a delegation from China's Shandong province, including Vice Governor Jia, visited Scotland and met with Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson MSP.  Amnesty Scotland called on the Scottish Government to raise concerns about human rights abuses in China, particularly Chen Guangcheng's case

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