(CNSNews.com) – One of China’s most outspoken defenders of the right to life, Chen Guangcheng, remains under an oppressive house arrest in the town of Dongshigu, China.
The human rights activist, who is blind, has been confined since his release from prison in September 2010, having served a four-year prison term for “damaging property and organizing a mob to disturb traffic.”
Supporters say his real offense in Beijing’s view was his effort to raise global awareness about systematic forced abortion in China, associated with the “one-child policy.”
At a Capitol Hill press conference on Wednesday, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) released the 2011 congressional report on the state of Chinese human rights, and he addressed Chen’s current condition.
”Not only have he and his wife suffered during his incarceration, but he is now under house arrest,” said Smith. “And it is a very aggressive house arrest, surrounded by police.”
He urged President Obama, Congress and all people of goodwill to speak out on behalf of Chen.
According to the congressional report, Chen and his wife were beaten severely on at least two separate occasions after a video of their treatment surfaced online last February.
Chen, a self-taught lawyer, gained worldwide attention in 2005 after alerting media organizations to the large number of forced abortions and sterilizations taking place – some 130,000 in one county, Linyi in eastern Shandong Province, in a single year.
According to the report, friends and fellow activists, as well as Chinese journalists have journeyed to Chen’s village recently attempting to see him but have all been rebuffed aggressively – not only by the police but also “groups of violent plainclothes thugs.”
Lawyers who have sought to take up Chen’s cause have also been arrested routinely.
Recent reports coming out of China even suggested that Chen may be dead, although human rights groups were unable to confirm this.
Asked after the press conference whether he knew anything about the reported death, Smith said he had not heard of that possibility.
“I don’t have any information on that,” he said. “But the way, they’ve beaten him – you might recall when he first got out of prison his wife let it be known that he was almost delirious. He was beaten around the temples and he could barely carry on a conversation.”
“So, I don’t know,” he added. “But if it is true it would be an atrocity of the highest order – of the lowest order.”
Smith was not optimistic about the chances of reliable information emerging from China, saying that the Chinese authorities “repress, and repress with impunity.”
In an unusual development, China’s Communist Party-linked Global Times published an opinion piece last Wednesday about the growing clamor for access to Chen and information about him. The report suggested that local authorities should be more forthcoming, so as to defuse and “depoliticize” the issue.
“Like similar spurts of action surrounding sensitive issues, speculation arises when clarification from relevant authorities is missing,” the report said. “As concerns accumulate, the local government of Linyi should release more information concerning Chen’s situation. Blocking information and hoping the inquiries go away will only lead to worse consequences.”