US lawmaker and rights critic denied China visa

November 16, 2011 - 6:05 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. lawmaker says he has been denied a visa to China to visit a detained human rights lawyer.

Republican Rep. Chris Smith chairs the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China. He wants to visit Chen Guangcheng, who is under house arrest in eastern Shandong province.

Chen is a prominent activist. He has documented forced late-term abortions and sterilizations. Authorities have made his village off-limits.

Smith is a vocal critic of China's rights record.

A statement said he and a commission delegation were unable to obtain visas from the Chinese Embassy last week. Smith has now requested to travel to China in January.

Embassy spokesman Wang Baodong said Wednesday issuing visas is a sovereign matter and China's laws should be respected.