Freedom House Welcomes Chinese Decision to Release Activist Chen
Freedom House welcomes the Chinese government’s decision to allow blind Chinese activist and self-taught lawyer Chen Guangcheng to travel with his wife and two children to the United States, where he will study law and English through a New York University fellowship. Freedom House calls on the Chinese authorities to cease their harassment of Chen’s family members who remain in China, and release those being held in detention.
Chen was arrested in 2006 and convicted on trumped up charges after working to expose forced abortions in China. Despite being released from prison in 2010, he was kept under house arrest by authorities. Chen dramatically escaped from the extralegal house arrest in April 2012 and took refuge in the United States embassy in Beijing, China. While Chen at first intended to stay in China, he ultimately decided to travel to the United States to pursue his studies for fear of his family’s safety if they were to remain in China.
Freedom House calls on China’s leaders to do more to punish human rights abusers and reduce the Communist Party’s extralegal apparatus of repression. Releasing other high-profile activists including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo and prominent attorney Gao Zhisheng, as well as dismantling the party’s Political-Legal Committee that controls the judiciary would be two important first steps towards a broader shift to the rule of law.
China is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2012, Freedom of the Press 2012 and Freedom on the Net 2011. With a sensitive change of leadership approaching in late 2012, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has shown no signs of loosening its grip on power and has stalled reforms related to the rule of law. However, intra-party friction in recent months, including the ousting of former Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai and the possible demotion of security chief Zhou Yongkang, may open the door for reform-minded individuals in the party to gain the upper hand.
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Freedom on the Net 2011: China
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China Media Bulletin