Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese human rights activist who captured international headlines earlier this year after escaping house arrest, met with top congressional leaders at the U.S. Capitol today to plead for assistance from the U.S. government in standing up for human rights worldwide.
Chen, who spoke to reporters through a translator, said the human rights situation in China today is "deteriorating," but that "as more and more Chinese people are not afraid to stand up and assert their rights, change in China is inevitable."
"Great cruelty has resulted from efforts to maintain social stability, resulting in a situation in which there is no ethics, rule of law or justice," Chen said. "Equality, justice and freedom do not have borders, so I hope all of those who pay attention to human rights in China will continue to work diligently in this regard and even though perhaps all of you do not pay close attention to the development of human rights in China over the last few years, there has been a lot of progress, and I do believe that there will be a movement towards a better society with more civil society and justice."
House Speaker John Boehner said it was "truly an honor and privilege" to welcome Chen to the Capitol, telling reporters that Chen's plight "humbles us and reminds us why we cherish life and freedom so much and why we work so hard to preserve and protect these fundamental values."
"While our economic relationship with China is important, the United States has an obligation to engage China and press for democratic reforms and improvement in its human rights practices," Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "We cannot remain silent when fundamental human rights are being violated. We cannot remain silent when religious liberty is under attack, and we cannot remain silent regarding China's reprehensible one-child policy.
"When it comes to guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of all of her citizens, the Chinese government has a responsibility to do better, and the United States government has a responsibility to hold them to account."
Chen, 40, was arrested in 2005 for condemning China's one-child per couple law. After hiding out in the U.S. Embassy for a few days in May, Chen eventually sought medical treatment at Chaoyang Hospital in Beijing after being told that Chinese officials would have killed his wife if he had remained at the embassy. He later received an exit permit to study in the United States after accepting an invitation from New York University.
In addition to the speaker, Chen met with other senior House leaders including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Reps. Chris Smith, Joseph Crowley and Adam Smith, all prominent advocates in Congress for improving human rights throughout the world.