BEIJING (BP) — Chinese human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng, who remains under virtual house arrest in a Beijing hospital, told reporters he expects to receive passports for his family in less than two weeks so that they may travel to the United States.
“[Chinese] officials visited yesterday, we filled out passport application forms for myself, my wife and children,” Chen told Agence-France Presse (AFP) news service May 17. “They said the passports should be issued within 15 days.”
Bob Fu, president of the China Aid Association, believes the progress on Wednesday toward bringing Chen and his family to the United States was directly the result of a House congressional subcommittee hearing Tuesday focusing on Chen’s plight.
“ChinaAid looks forward to the early arrival of the Chen family to the United States so that he can rest and pursue further studies, and calls on the whole world to continue to follow the developments in the situation of Chen’s relatives in Shandong, where their safety is at risk,” the Texas-based organization said in a statement May 16.
Chen told the Associated Press Thursday it remained unclear whether his family would be able to leave China immediately upon receiving passports. AP’s conversation with Chen was cut off before the reporter could ask about apparent retaliation against his brother and nephew.
Also on Thursday, Chen’s brother recounted his ordeal to an online magazine in Hong Kong, saying he was tortured for three days by local authorities after Chen escaped house arrest April 22.
“Chen Guangfu said the men cuffed his hands behind his back and shackled his feet with a chain, then slapped him several times, struck him in the ribs and stomped on his feet,” AP said.
Chen Guangfu’s son, Chen Kegui, is in detention and has been charged with “intentional homicide” after defending himself with a kitchen knife when authorities stormed his house.
The U.S. State Department said Tuesday all of the paperwork on the U.S. side had been completed for Chen, his wife and his two children to come to the United States to study at New York University.
“We are ready when he and his government are ready. We have been for more than a week now in terms of his visa to come pursue his studies,” spokesperson Victoria Nuland said. “He is continuing to work with his government. Our information is that those conversations, contacts and processing continue. And we’ve been in regular contact with him two or three times a day, every day.”
Chen, a 41-year-old self-trained human rights lawyer, was imprisoned for more than four years for exposing China’s brutal abortion practices and then was put under house arrest. He escaped April 22 and sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for six days before being transferred to a hospital.
At the congressional hearing Tuesday, Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., reiterated Chen’s value to the cause of human rights in China.
“Chen Guangcheng is among the bravest defenders of women’s rights in the world,” Smith said. “Chen defended thousands of women from the ongoing, most egregious systematic state-sponsored exploitation and abuse of women in human history — pervasive forced abortion and involuntary sterilization as part of China’s one child per couple policy — and has suffered torture, cruel and degrading treatment, unjust incarceration and multiple beatings as a result.”
The magnitude of the exploitation of women in China has been largely overlooked, trivialized and even enabled by world leaders, Smith said. He also expressed a desire to keep international focus on Chen’s case until it is favorably resolved.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp). For Baptist Press’ May 16 update on Chen Guangcheng’s case, go to http://bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=37839.