GOP senators unveil resolution to grant Chinese activist asylum

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) on Sunday released a draft resolution calling on the U.S. to offer political asylum to blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng and his wife and two children.

The resolution comes as Republicans, including likely presidential nominee Mitt Romney, have criticized the Obama administration's handling of the issue. It states that the Senate “regrets the decision to return Mr. Chen to Chinese custody without adequate consultation or guarantees of his security and the security of his family.”

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Chen's escape from house arrest turned into a political headache for President Obama last week after it appeared the U.S. embassy in Beijing had naively handed him back to Chinese authorities. Romney called it “a day of shame for the Obama administration” during a campaign event Thursday and Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said he wants administration officials to testify before Congress's special commission on China.

The issue isn't without political risks for the GOP, however, and the senators' resolution could wreck delicate negotiations with China. U.S. diplomats on the ground scrambled late last week to negotiate a face-saving deal, but Chen's fate remained uncertain as of Sunday: He has been offered a scholarship to study law at New York University but still needs travel documents and assurances that family members will be safe in China. 

Graham is a defense hawk and Ayotte, a freshman, has been floated as a possible running mate for Mitt Romney's presidential bid. 

Their resolution also calls on China to “immediately halt all forced abortions and sterilizations” and stop persecuting human rights activists and their families. The senators plan to introduce it this coming week when Congress returns from recess.

Read the full draft of the resolution below:

Expressing support for Chinese Human Rights Activist and Lawyer Chen Guangcheng

Whereas, Chen Guangcheng is a blind, 40-year-old human rights activist and lawyer;

Whereas, Chen stood up for the basic human dignity and rights of thousands of his fellow countrymen who had been subjected to late-term forced abortions, compulsory sterilization, midnight raids, and beatings under China’s One Child Policy;

Whereas, Chen filed a class-action lawsuit accusing officials in Linyi, a city in Shandong province, of seeking to enforce restrictive population control laws;

Whereas, Chen traveled from one community to the next in rural China, collecting testimony and evidence about the population-control abuses of the Chinese government;

Whereas, Chen had the courage to speak out against the Chinese government’s practice of forced abortions and sterilizations;

Whereas, Chen sought to hold the Chinese government accountable for “widespread violations of citizen’s basic rights”;

Whereas, Chen, in filing legal actions against the Chinese government, was visited by local government officials who tried to intimidate him into dropping his lawsuit and objections;

Whereas, Chen continued his campaign despite being warned by one Chinese government official that “offending the government isn’t good”;

Whereas, Chen withstood government intimidation and pressed forward noting, “If you’ve violated the law, you must take responsibility. If we withdraw the lawsuit, then they'll just violate the law again next time”;

Whereas, in March 2006, Yinan county police officers “disappeared” Chen for three months;

Whereas, in June 2006, Chinese officials finally acknowledged he had been formally detained in the Yinan County Detention Center;

Whereas, in June 2006, the Yinan County People’s Procuratorate formally arrested Chen on charges of damaging property and assembling a crowd to disrupt traffic;

Whereas, local officials in China repeatedly interfered with attempts by Chen’s legal team to interview witnesses and gather evidence, thereby denying him a fair trial;

Whereas, in August 2006, Chen was found guilty of these charges and sentenced to four years and three months in prison;

Whereas, Chen was named in 2006 by Time magazine as one of 100 people whose power, talent, and moral example is transforming our world;

Whereas, Time magazine said that Chen may have lost his sight as a child, but his legal vision has helped illuminate the plight of thousands of Chinese villagers;

Whereas, Mr. Chen was released from prison in 2010;

Whereas, since September 2010, Chen has been under house arrest;

Whereas, despite his house arrest, Chen continued his advocacy for the rights of his fellow citizens and endured mistreatment from Chinese authorities;

Whereas, on April 22, 2012, with the help of family and friends, Chen evaded guards and escaped from house arrest;

Whereas, Chen confirmed the stories of Chinese mistreatment of him during house arrest by saying “All the stories online about the brutal treatment I received from the Linyi authorities, I can personally testify they are true. The reality is even harsher than the stories that have been circulating";

Whereas, Chen then traveled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, where he was given temporary shelter;

Whereas, following his escape, Chen released a video to Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, requesting an investigation of officials who mistreated him and his family, assurances of their safety, and genuine efforts by the government to tackle corruption;

Whereas, those who helped Chen escape his house arrest have since reportedly disappeared or been questioned by Chinese state security officials;

Whereas, Chen has stated to U.S. and international media that he seeks U.S. help in leaving China for the safety of himself and his family;

Whereas, Chinese citizens are entitled to the same universal rights and freedoms that Americans enjoy; and

Whereas, the assertive promotion of human rights abroad honors American values and protects U.S. interests: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate:

1.            Affirms that forced abortions and sterilization procedures represent a gross violation of human rights;

2.            Calls on the government of the People’s Republic of China to immediately halt all forced abortions and sterilizations;

3.            Calls on the government of the People’s Republic of China to end the persecution and intimidation of all human rights activists who are advocating for the end of forced abortions and sterilization procedures and seeking to defend victims of such practices;

4.            Calls on the government of the People’s Republic of China to end the intimidation of all family members of human rights activists;

5.            Praises and applauds Mr. Chen’s brave efforts to protect his fellow citizens from forced abortions and sterilizations;

6.            Condemns the physical abuse suffered by Mr. Chen and his family as a result of efforts to support human rights in China;

7.            Calls on the government of the People’s Republic of China to honor its commitments to protect Mr. Chen, his family, and associates from prosecution, intimidation, and violence.

8.            Regrets the decision to return Mr. Chen to Chinese custody without adequate consultation or guarantees of his security and the security of his family;

9.            Asserts that the U.S. government should never apologize for promoting human rights and protecting those who seek to secure those rights;

10.            Welcomes a sovereign and prosperous China that functions as a responsible member of the international community, but recognizes that continued human rights violations in China will present a major impediment to strengthening the bilateral relationship that serves U.S. and Chinese interests.

11.          Believes that the United States should offer Chen and his family political asylum in America.