Dissident Chen visits Congress to urge tough stance on China

The Chinese dissident who sparked a diplomatic crisis with China this spring urged Congress on Wednesday to continue holding the communist leadership's feet to the fire on human rights.

“As more and more Chinese people are not afraid to stand up and assert their rights, change in China is inevitable,” Chen Guangcheng told reporters via a translator ahead of a closed-door meeting with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other House members. “Therefore at this critical point of transition in Chinese society, I sincerely hope that the United States — and all other nations that embrace the fundamental values of constitutionalism, democracy, freedom and the rule of law — will support and assist with a smooth transition in China.”

Chen sought refuge at the U.S. embassy in Beijing in late April, forcing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other U.S. diplomats to work out a face-saving deal for him to come to the United States as a student. Chen was under house arrest after protesting against forced abortions conducted as a result of China's one-child policy.

“I'm hopeful and very happy today to have the members here with me to consider how to take action in China,” Chen said, “and I also hope that Obama and the administration and the American leadership will also continue to work for human rights in China.”

He also called on China to follow through on its promise to investigate the conditions of his detention by local authorities in coastal Shandong province. Chen and the lawmakers did not take any questions.

The lawmakers concurred with his remarks.

“While our economic relationship with China is important, the United States has an obligation to engage China and press for democratic reforms and improvement in its human rights practices,” Boehner said. “We cannot remain silent when fundamental human rights are being violated, we cannot remain silent when religious liberty is under attack, we cannot remain silent regarding China's reprehensible one-child policy.”

Pelosi associated herself with the Speaker's remarks, even as she avoided repeating his reference to the “rights of the unborn.” Republicans have accused Democrats of championing Chen's right to free speech while largely ignoring his criticism of China's single-child policy.