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China Grants Dissident's Brother Passport Ahead Of Xi-Obama Meeting

posted 7 Jun 2013, 06:21 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 7 Jun 2013, 06:21 ]

The brother of blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng says Beijing has issued passports to himself and his mother ahead of President Xi Jinping's meeting with Obama, but Chen Guangcheng says the move highlights China's need for the rule of law.

BEIJINGCHINA (REUTERS) -  China has granted passports to the mother and eldest brother of blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng which they hope to use to visit him in theUnited States, the brother said on Friday (June 7), suspecting that it was a concession by Beijing ahead of a Sino-U.S. summit.

The treatment of Chen Guangcheng's family has received prominent attention from the United States, especially as Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. PresidentBarack Obama meet this week in California.

Family members have been harassed, and at times beaten, by unidentified men since Chen dramatically escaped house arrest last year and fled to the U.S. embassy in Beijing, before being allowed to go to New York to study.

Eldest brother Chen Guangfu said a passport application for him and his mother had unexpectedly been approved, after months of obfuscation by local officials.

"Of course I'm very happy, because we've been applying for a long time. At the beginning, when they wouldn't accept it, their main excuse was that it was hard to get a visa for the U.S. I complained to them, saying 'If it's hard to get a visa for the U.S., that shouldn't come under the remit of the Yinan County Public Security Department. It should be up to the U.S. embassy in China'," he said by phone from his home in rural Shandong province.

Chen Guangfu suspected that the approval was linked to the upcoming meeting between Xi and Obama.

"Many people online are saying that it's certainly related. Because I have been applying for a passport since before the Chinese New Year, and they have used many different excuses to refuse it and not accept it. But when I applied again on May 27th, they didn't say anything, they just accepted it," he said.

Guangfu said he was unclear when he and his mother, aged 80, would be able to go.

Chen Guangcheng is a self-schooled legal advocate who campaigned against forced abortions.

He was jailed for four years on charges that he and his supporters said were spurious, and held in his village home for 19 months after being released.

He arrived in New York amid a media storm reception in May 2012. He has said he is determined to return to China, but says he is not sure when.

Speaking by telephone from his New York apartment, Chen Guangcheng said it was a sign of how dysfunctional China was that the simple matter of granting a passport could become news.

"Citizens of the United States or Europe, citizens who live under democratic systems, can get a passport at the post office. It's not a big deal. But the fact that inChina even getting a passport becomes an important piece of news exactly illustrates this point. But no matter what you say, giving a citizen back their rights, no matter how much they give, is always a good thing," he said.

Chen Guangcheng said he hoped that Obama would push Xi on human rights during their talks.

"Obama should very clearly demand that Xi Jinping stop hurting rights activists, and let Chinese society become a constitutional, democratic, free civil society under the rule of law as quickly as possible. Only this strategy will allow China to enjoy lasting political stability," he said.

China has in the past made similar concessions on human rights ahead of important meetings with the United States.

However, Guangfu's son Chen Kegui remains in jail after being jailed for three years last year for intentional infliction of injury.