Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) said they plan to introduce a resolution on Monday in support of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng.
According to spokesmen for the two Senators, they expect additional co-sponsors to sign on as lawmakers return from recess. “Chen Guangcheng has now expressed a desire to leave China with his family. The U.S. should offer Chen and his family political asylum in America,” Ayotte said in a statement about the blind human rights activist who recently escaped house arrest and fled to the American embassy in Beijing.
“Chen has bravely stood up to the Chinese government and protested its abhorrent human rights practices,” Ayotte continued. “The U.S. should never apologize for promoting human rights and protecting courageous human rights activists like Chen.”
Chen left the embassy Wednesday, after negotiations between the U.S. and China to allow the dissident to seek medical treatment.
The drama surrounding Chen’s circumstances has significantly shaped Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s visit to China. Chen had originally expressed a preference to stay in his homeland but has shown a change of heart in recent interviews, acknowledging the dangers for him and his family if they stay in China.
“I want them to protect human rights through concrete actions,” Chen told CNN Wednesday of what he would like to see from American officials. “We are in danger. If you can talk to Hillary, I hope she can help my whole family leave China.”
Also today, Chen surprised Members of the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China by calling in by phone to testify. The dissident, according to a transcript released by the office of Chairman Chris Smith (R-N.J.), expressed many of the same sentiments from the CNN interview before the commission. Smith has held hearings previously on Chen's plight and has sought to travel to China to visit with him.
Graham, ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, released a statement in support of Chen on Wednesday, before announcing the resolution.
“If America does not speak up for Mr. Chen who will? If his cause is not just and worthy of support, whose is?” Graham said. “The Obama administration should not let this moment pass. The Chinese government should be put on notice this case will have an impact on future relations between our two nations. We have leverage to use, but we need the will to do so.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.