Jerome Cohen and Sharon Hom '80 testify before Congress on the plight of Chen Guangcheng

Jerome CohenOn November 1, Jerome Cohen, NYU Professor of Law, and Sharon Hom ’80, executive director of Human Rights in China, testified before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) during an emergency hearing on “Examination into the Abuse and Extralegal Detention of Legal Advocate Chen Guangcheng and His Family.” The CECC consists of nine Senators, nine Members of the House of Representatives, and five senior Administration officials appointed by the President. In their testimonies, both Cohen and Hom called for the release of Guangcheng and his family. Chai Ling, founder of All Girls Allowed, also testified.

According to a statement from the CECC, Chen Guangcheng is a self-trained legal activist currently being imprisoned for “organizing a group of people to disturb traffic order.” Chen is also known for his work on behalf of farmers and the disabled and against forced abortion and sterilization of women. Previously imprisoned from 2006-2010, Chen is now being confined in his home in Dongshigu village outside of Linyi, alongside his wife, Yuan Weijing, and six-year-old daughter. Hom testified that activists attempting to visit Chen had been beaten and severely injured. The government has also implemented censors preventing online organization of support for Chen.

Sharon Hom '80In his testimony, Cohen spoke to the importance of greater transparency in China. “Even many Chinese specialists in criminal justice continue to claim—six years after Chen became well-known overseas—that they have never heard of him. This is why the efforts of Chinese activists to employ the Internet and social media to expose this case to the people are so crucial, and this is why the government refuses to permit access to and communication with Chen, at great cost to its reputation,” he said. “There is a chance that Chen's cause could become a monumental and significant struggle for freedom and justice in China.”

Following the hearing, the CECC released a statement demanding the liberation of Chen Guangcheng and his family. In the statement, Senator Sherrod Brown, cochairman of the CECC, emphasized the commission’s concern about the conditions under which Chen Guangcheng and his family are suffering:  “We join Chinese citizens in demanding immediate transparency and explanation from the Chinese government regarding his case.”

Posted November 2, 2011