For Immediate Release: July 23, 2012
Washington, DC – Human Rights First calls on Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner to raise as a matter of priority the case of Chen Kegui, nephew of the blind “barefoot lawyer” and dissident Chen Guangcheng, when he meets with Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General for International Organizations and Conferences Chen Xu this week for the U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue, a series of meetings between senior officials in the two governments. The Dialogue, which takes place on today and tomorrow in Washington, D.C., comes amid an increasing crackdown against human rights lawyers and activists in China.
Chen Guangcheng’s nephew was arrested and charged with attempted murder after Chen’s daring escape from house arrest in May. Chen Kegui has been denied legal representation, a violation of Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which China is a signatory. He was charged after defending his family when local officials stormed into his house and attacked his mother and father. As Chen Guangcheng wrote in a recent op-ed, “[Chinese authorities] have denied him access to his friends, family, and defense counsel of his choice. It seems that in our country one can invade another’s home and loot and beat people, and not be held accountable. Yet defense of one’s own life and property while under attack is labeled ‘attempted murder.’” Chen Guangcheng has said that he fears his nephew has been tortured.
“Next week’s Human Rights Dialogue is an opportunity for the United States to make good on Secretary Clinton’s recent pledge to put human rights ‘at the heart’ of U.S. diplomacy with China,” said Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “But for human rights to truly be at the heart of U.S. diplomacy, these concerns must be raised not only by Secretary Posner but by all U.S. officials when meeting with their Chinese counterparts,” Massimino added. “It is a credit to the United States that Mr. Chen sought protection at the American Embassy, and the United States acted admirably in assisting him. But Chinese dissidents, public interest lawyers, and their families in China continue to toil under the crushing power of the police state. The United States must continue to demonstrate its support for these activists, as well as for the villagers, relatives, and others who assisted Chen Guangcheng in his escape,” said Massimino.
Massimino has written twice to Secretary Clinton calling on her to speak out about the case; the State Department has responded that it has raised the case of Chen Guangcheng’s family members with Chinese authorities. Human Rights First has followed the treatment of Chinese lawyers and dissidents closely and will honor Chen Guangcheng with its annual Human Rights Award in October.
“The situation in China is perilous for many citizens, particularly public interest lawyers and other rights activists who work tirelessly to protect the human rights of their fellow citizens. Secretary Posner can demonstrate that the administration intends to keep a spotlight on these issues by raising the case of Chen Kegui during next week’s dialogue,” said Massimino.
For more information about this case, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-370-3323.