May 05, 2012
Statement on Chen Guangcheng
Washington, DC - Human Rights First is hopeful that the Chinese Government will allow Mr. Chen and his family to come to New York as the reported agreement between American and Chinese officials stipulates. “The fact that Mr. Chen looked to the United States for help and protection places a special obligation on us to make sure that he and his family remain safe,” said Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino. Until he leaves China, the Chinese government must allow members of the U.S. embassy and medical personnel to visit him. Human Rights First urges American officials to press the Chinese Government for assurances that the network of activists who assisted Mr. Chen and his extended family will not suffer retaliation. It is imperative that U.S. embassy officials in China remain in communication with these individuals. If this job requires more personnel at the American embassy, the State Department should assign the appropriate people and resources. “The recent events should end once and for all the myth that human rights can be kept from the core of the strategic dialogue between the United States and China,” said Massimino. “Secretary Clinton’s assertion today that human rights are ‘at the heart of our diplomacy’ with China is a welcome change from her claim in 2009 that China’s miserable rights record could not interfere with negotiations over other issues. If human rights really are to be at the heart of our diplomacy, Secretary Geithner should make clear that he shares Secretary Clinton’s concerns.” “The United States Government shouldn’t have needed to rely on Mr. Chen’s bravery to put human rights back on the agenda,” concluded Massimino. “It’s time that we realize that our bargaining position with China isn’t improved by discarding human rights. Staying strong on rights strengthens our hand overall. America is strongest when it's actions match it's values."