Chen Case ‘An Engraved Invitation’ for Obama to 'Stand Up For Human Rights’

By Penny Starr | May 1, 2012 | 5:33 PM EDT

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) speaking on May 1, 2012 in Washington, D.C. ( Starr)

( - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday said the U.S. government is "committed to remaining engaged" with Chinese pro-life activist Chen Guangcheng, who took refuge at the U.S. embassy in Beijing after escaping from house arrest.

Chen left the embassy on Wednesday, shortly after Clinton arrived in Beijing for long-scheduled talks with Chinese officials.

Chen's case presented the Obama administration with "an engraved invitation" to finally "stand up for human rights," Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) told on Tuesday, before Chen left the embassy.

“If we don’t stand for human rights, what do we stand for – another trade deal with a gulag state, and with a government that is a dictatorship?” Smith said. “We should be shouting from the rooftops our outrage that women are being so horrifically treated by China, and yet there’s been nothing” by the Obama administration."

This undated photo provided by the China Aid Association shows blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangchen, left, with his son, Chen Kerui, center, and his wife Yuan Weijing in Shandong province, China. (AP Photo/

The blind activist has run afoul of Chinese authorities by fighting for the legal rights of Chinese women who have faced forced abortion and sterilization under China’s one-child policy. He evaded house arrest on April 22.

Reports that Chen had fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing surfaced just days before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner made a long-planned to China for an economic summit, which begins on Thursday.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Clinton said she was "pleased that we were able to facilitate Chen Guangcheng’s stay and departure from the U.S. embassy in a way that reflected his choices and our values. I was glad to have the chance to speak with him today and to congratulate him on being reunited with his wife and children.

"Mr. Chen has a number of understandings with the Chinese government about his future, including the opportunity to pursue higher education in a safe environment. Making these commitments a reality is the next crucial task. The United States government and the American people are committed to remaining engaged with Mr. Chen and his family in the days, weeks, and years ahead."

'I want to kiss you'

A U.S. official in China told reporters that Chen did not ask for asylum and had decided to stay in China after receiving assurances from Chinese authorities that he would be moved to a safe environment where he could study at a university. China is now demanding an apology from the U.S. for giving Chen refuge.

U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke escorted Chen to a hospital for medical treatment, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday. On the way, the activist called his lawyer, Li Jinsong, who said Chen told him: "'I'm free. I've received clear assurances.'"

Chen, in his phone call with Clinton, thanked her in Chinese for raising his case, a U.S. official said. Chen then told Clinton in halting English, "'I want to kiss you,'" the official said.

China’s authoritarian government enforces a one-child policy that has led to forced abortions and sterilizations, and has also produced a lopsided population where the number of young men far surpasses the number of young women. There are an estimated 123 males born for every 100 females born, and there are about 32 million more men under the age of 20 than women in China today.

Press reports described Chen's case as a diplomatic mess ahead of Clinton and Geithner's talks with the Chinese.

Rep. Smith told on Tuesday, “They’re putting this veneer on it that this is a complication – no it’s not. It’s an engraved invitation to stand up for human rights – finally -- because they have not done so for three-and-a-half years at the Obama administration.

“So, in a way, it’s a gift to them to get it right and to help this man and send a message to the other human rights activists around China that we stand with them,” Smith said.

Smith on Tuesday said Secretary Clinton should speak out on Chen’s behalf, and he said the United States should negotiate his safety if he stays in China or provide him and his family political asylum in the United States.

When asked about the case by a reporter at a joint press conference on Monday with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, President Obama declined to comment.

“Obviously, I’m aware of the press reports about China, but I’m not going to make a statement on the issue,” Obama said. “What I would like to emphasize is 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 is stronger as it opens up and liberalizes its own system,” Obama said.

According to the State Department’s 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, China has “a coercive birth limitation policy, which in some cases resulted in forced abortion or forced sterilization.”

But Rep. Smith, who is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of its Africa, Global Health and Human Rights Subcommittee and chairman of the Congressional Executive Commission on China, said the Obama administration has “almost no human rights policy vis-a-vis China.”

“Thus far the Obama administration has been strangely and bizarrely silent when it comes to forced abortion,” Smith said.  “A little mention of it here or there, but meanwhile we’re funding an organization that’s on the ground enabling the forced population control program in China and that is the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).”

Smith said the Obama administration has given hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to UNFPA during his more than three years in office.

“So, while we may say through our lips that we’re not in favor of what’s going on China, that organization – the UNFPA – is on the ground and helping to oppress women and to destroy their children,” Smith said.

Smith also said the economic summit this week in Beijing is not as important as Communist China’s human rights abuses.

“My sense is that human rights are first and foremost and they’re the most important issue,” Smith said. “If we don’t stand for human rights, what do we stand for – another trade deal with a gulag state, and with a government that is a dictatorship?”

The State Department Web site says that aside from the economic summit, Clinton will also take part in a “People-to-People Exchange” to “enhance and strengthen ties between the citizens of the United States and China in the areas of culture, education, sports, science and technology and women’s issues.”

Smith, meanwhile, said the Obama administration’s silence on women’s issues in China is deafening.

“So this silence in the face of the most cruel attack on women ever – there’s never been a systematic attack on women the likes of which is the one-child per couple policy,” Smith said.

“We should be shouting from the rooftops our outrage that women are being so horrifically treated by China and yet there’s been nothing,” Smith said.

After the meetings in China, Clinton is scheduled to travel to Bangladesh and India.