Guangcheng's friend Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid, told a congressional commission
Thursday that Chen only agreed to leave the U.S. Embassy in Beijing after U.S.
officials conveyed a threat from the Chinese government that Chen would never
see his wife again if he didn't leave the embassy that day.
Fu has been in contact with Chen directly throughout
the ordeal and told the Congressional
Executive Commission on China (CECC) today that he
had spoken to Chen Wednesday night as Chen and his family remained in a Beijing
hospital, unable to leave or receive visitors. U.S. officials have insisted
that Chen left the embassy of his own volition after agreeing to the terms of
a deal U.S. officials struck with the Chinese
But Fu said Chen's real motivation was fear.
"According to my conversations last night with Mr.
Chen," Fu testified, "the U.S. officials relayed to Chen a message from the
Chinese side that they would harm his wife. And it was in response to this
threat that Chen reluctantly agreed to leave the embassy."
He continued: "Chen was talked to by a U.S.
government official before he left the embassy and he was told it was a Chinese
government message, that the Chinese government wanted to convey the message
through the U.S. government official that if he did not leave the embassy on
May 2, he will not be able to see his wife and children again."
"Chen said, after hearing that message from the
Chinese government, conveyed by U.S. officials, his heart was heavy and he felt
he had no other choice but to walk out of the U.S. embassy," said Fu.
U.S. officials deny that they conveyed any physical
or legal threats to Chen. In a statement issued Wednesday and repeated Thursday
by the White House, however, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland acknowledged,
"U.S. interlocutors did make clear that if Chen elected to stay in the Embassy,
Chinese officials had indicated to us that his family would be returned to
Shandong, and they would lose their opportunity to negotiate for
Chen may have interpreted those comments as an
implicit threat, observers said.
According to Fu, after Chen arrived at the hospital,
he heard from his wife that she was abused in recent days at their Shandong
home. She was tied to a chair and beaten, Fu said. Upon hearing that, Chen no
longer had faith in the Chinese government to honor any deal to keep his family
safe and decided to plea for U.S. assistance in leaving China.
"The interrogator told her that if her husband did
not walk out of the U.S. Embassy, they would kill her. It should be clear to
anyone who uses logic that constitutes a threat," Fu said, adding that Chen has
not asked for "amnesty" per se but wants to leave China.
"Secretary Clinton, at least deliver what you have
promised and repeatedly said over the last two years: that you want to see Chen and his family in freedom and
safety," Fu said.
In an interview with CBS, U.S. Amb. to China Gary Locke said that the United States
had worked hard to negotiate a package of concessions from the Chinese
government, and that Chen was enthusiastic about the arrangement. Locke also
said that Chen's wife and children were brought to Beijing at Chen's request.
can't the Chinese just do something first as a sign of good faith? Why must I
trust them to do various things after I leave the Embassy?" Chen told U.S.
officials, according to Locke. "Why can't they bring the family from the
village to the hospital first so that I can know that they're safe, so I can
talk to them on the phone? And if, after that conversation, I'm satisfied, I
will leave the embassy and rejoin them."
that Chen was never pressured to leave the embassy, never expressed a desire to
leave China when at the embassy, and rejected other offers from the Chinese
government before eventually agreeing to the final offer.
"We were able to get the Chinese government to offer
an unprecedented package of care for him -- family reunification. He hadn't
seen his son in over two years. They were going to give him a full scholarship
at one of seven universities of his choosing with full housing and living
expenses for him and his family, and they would conduct an investigation of the
abuses that he had suffered," Locke said. "If he had stayed in the embassy, his family still would have
been in the village where they have suffered abuse."
Nevertheless, Locke noted that Chen was obviously
having a change of heart and said that U.S. officials were working Thursday to
determine Chen's wishes and how they could assist him. Chen's wife came out of
the hospital to meet with U.S. officials Thursday and officials have had two
conversations with Chen over the phone, Locke said.
Malinowski, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch,
told The Cable that the U.S.
government had no choice but to relay the Chinese government's implicit threat
to Chen and allow Chen to use that information to make the best decision for
him and his family.
"The State Department said there was a particular
threat made that they duly informed him about. They did what they had to do in
conveying that to Chen," he said. "It would have been wrong if it was the case
that they pressed him on that basis in one direction or another, but I don't
have any information that they did."
The CECC is chaired by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the congressman to whom Chen appealed directly for
help Wednesday after saying he felt abandoned by the U.S. government. At
today's hearing, Smith referred to Chen's comments in
an interview with CNN from his hospital bed, during
which he said that administration officials lobbied him repeatedly to leave the
embassy, kept him from communicating with friends, and reneged on promises to
stay with him at the hospital.
"I'm very disappointed in the U.S. government. I
don't think U.S. officials protected human rights in this case," Chen said in
the interview. (In a more recent interview with the network, Chen chalked some
of his earlier comments up to a "misunderstanding.")
Smith said he intends to hold another hearing on the
issue next week with U.S. officials.
"Chen's comments portray the U.S. as manipulating
him, cutting him off from outside communication, and encouraging him to leave
the embassy rather than seek asylum," said Smith. "He said he was denied
requests to call friends. He said he felt the embassy officials had lied to
There are several questions left unanswered, Smith
said, including: How will the U.S. enforce the agreement with the Chinese
government on Chen? What happens if Chen or his family suffer retaliation?
Where is Chen's nephew Chen Kegui?
What happens now to He Peirong, the
woman who drove Chen to the embassy?
Smith detailed Chen's fight against alleged abuses
of China's family planning laws in Shandong and the abuses he and his wife have
endured at the hands of Chinese officials, including beatings and various other
forms of intimidation. CECC has been documenting these abuses in detail and held
a hearing about Chen's case last November.
"Hu Jia, a human rights and environmental advocate, and Chen Guangcheng, a
self-trained legal advocate who publicized population planning abuses, were
released from prison this year only to face, along with their families, onerous
conditions of detention and abuse with little or no basis in Chinese law,"
CECC's 2011 Annual Report stated. "In Chen's case,
authorities kept him and his wife under extralegal house arrest and allegedly
beat them after video footage of their conditions was smuggled out of the house
and released on an overseas Web site."