National Press Club

Activist Calls on President Obama to Press China on Human Rights

September 25, 2013 | By Jennifer Ejim |

Chen Guangcheng, a prominent Chinese human rights activist and political dissident, called on President Barack Obama administration to show greater commitment toward addressing what he said were human rights violations by the government in Beijing.

He said Obama should ``protect and promote democracy worldwide'' and should raise the issue of human rights with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Guangcheng, a self-taught lawyer, escaped house arrest and sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He said he was arrested after organizing a landmark class-action lawsuit against authorities in Linyi, Shandong Province, regarding the aggressive enforcement of the one-child policy.

He said that the government has retaliated against his family and those of other political dissidents. His said his nephew, Chen Kegui, was arrested while trying to defend himself from local party officials and government thugs who had stormed the family compound. His nephew was denied access to his lawyer and was sentenced to three years and three months in prison and denied access to the medical care he needed for his appendicitis. Guangcheng said his family's vehicles' tires have been slashed and dead animals have been thrown in to the family compound.

“Very recently, more than 140 human rights activists in China have been detained, an indication that the crackdown is getting worse,” Guancheng said.

Speaking through an interpreter, Guangcheng thanked Secretary of State John Kerry and European officials for their help.

Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said the time was ripe to push China on human rights violations as more citizens were willing to speak up.