May 14, 2017
U.S. diplomats staged a rare intervention to rescue the family of a human rights lawyer held in China. The attorney was released last week, after having been swept up in a two-year-old crackdown that has put most of the country’s rights lawyers and legal activists out of business.
Human rights groups have been watching to see whether the Trump administration will take a more or less muscular approach to human rights in China than their predecessors, and this case highlights some of the issues at stake.
The target of the rescue was Chen Guiqiu, a professor of environmental science, and the wife of human rights lawyer Xie Yang.
Chen had fled China with the couple’s two daughters in February, fearing for their safety. They snuck into Thailand, but local authorities raided their safe house and detained them.
On March 2, Chen was locked up in a Bangkok immigration jail.
“I couldn’t communicate with the outside world,” Chen recalls. “I was worried, almost in despair, and in my heart, I was praying to God.”
A group of Chinese government agents milled outside the front gate of the jail, waiting for Chen to be deported so they could take her back to China. This is according to Bob Fu, president and founder of China Aid, a Midland, Texas-based organization that describes itself as a “Christian human rights group.”
But action by Fu’s group and U.S. officials caught the Chinese agents off guard, and now Chen and her daughters are in the U.S.