US Credibility and the Chen Guangcheng Case

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Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. The case of Chen Guangcheng appears to have turned into a major test of U.S. — China relations. The blind Chinese dissident lawyer escaped from house arrest a week ago, he's now believed to be under the protection of U.S. diplomats in Beijing, but the Obama administration hasn't confirmed that. The president himself declined to comment today when asked about the case by a reporter at the White house, but he did go on to say this;
ââ?¬Å?What I would like to say is that every time we meet with China the issue of human rights comes up. It is our belief that not only is that the right thing to do because it comports with our principles and our belief in freedom and human rights, but also because we actually think China will be stronger. ââ?¬Å?
The timing of this diplomatic headache isn't great. Secretary of state Hilary Clinton is heading to Beijing this week for her key annual talks with Chinese leaders. Bob Fu is a Texas-based china rights activist who says he's a friend of Chen Guangcheng. Fu and his wife were accused of illegal religious activities in China and received asylum in the U.S. in 1997. Chen has said he doesn't want exile in the U.S., but Bob Fu says the options open to his fellow activist are limited.

Bob Fu: He may have to change his mind, look; he has been cut off from any outside communication for the past seven years, under numerous tortures and brutal treatment of his family members. He was not aware what had happened to other fellow human rights lawyers in the past year since the Jasmine Revolution. For him, he's a patriot, he loves the country, and when he escaped from his house what he said to me that he wanted to stay in China, but now the situation's changed, and I think a viable and realistic solution is for him and his family to come to the U.S. for their medical treatment and to live a peaceful life.

Werman: Do you see that as their only option now, as Chen's only option?

Fu: Unfortunately under the current situation that might be the only option left, unless there is dramatic political change and change in the minds of the Chinese top leadership, and I don't think the Chinese leaders in the Communist party want to have Chen in headline news every day.

Werman: Do you have any sense why you think Chen has been persecuted by Chinese authorities?

Fu: What he did was he documented over 100,000 cases of victims of the forced abortion and forced sterilisation in his county. He is a man of really just courageous spirit for promoting the rule of law and freedom, and really engaging in legal aid for many vulnerable groups.

Werman: If Washington doesn't negotiate an exit for Chen, what's going to be the reaction from Chinese human rights activists? What would be your reaction?

Fu: If Washington did not handle this case well or properly, for instance, if Chen, at the end of the day, like Yuan Xianchen's case, was handed over to china or Chinese security, I think it will be a major blow to the spirit of millions of Chinese human rights defenders, and it would certainly make the U.S. lose credibility in the eyes of the global human rights community. The damage would be huge. And this is a pivotal moment for the U.S.' civil rights history, and especially the human rights diplomacy, because Secretary Clinton has talked about Mr Chen's case and publicly appealed to the Chinese government to release Chen and his family as late as last November, and I think now is the time for her to meet her words with action and to deliver it. As for the Chinese government, Premier
Wen Jiabao, to whom Chen had appealed after he escaped, has repeatedly called for political reform, called for rule of law, called for social justice and equality, I think it's time for the Chinese leaders to deliver what they said with action. I think Chen's case will be a litmus test for the sincerity on both sides of the government.

Werman: Bob, just one last question, I'm curious to know what aspect or part of Chen's cause and goals do you and your organisation CHINAaid support?

Fu: The painful thing was to see every day how Chen and his family were treated brutally, his 6 year old daughter had to be escorted and searched every day by three guards, and his mother on her 80th birthday was beaten up, and was not allowed to go to hospital. These kinds of details make me wonder why a blind man with courage to advance China's rule of law had to be treated that way? That's painful. But at the same time, now I can see that there is some light, that he might be free and finally get some safety, so I'm joyful and hopeful at this moment.

Werman: Bob Fu, an America based China rights activist and friend of Chen Guangcheng. He's president of the CHINAaid association in Midland Texas. Bob, thank you very much.

Fu: Thank you for having me.