US lawmakers meet China dissident Chen on Wednesday

WASHINGTON - Senior lawmakers in the US Congress will meet Wednesday with prominent Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng (above), House Speaker John Boehner's office said.

The top Republican in the House "will host a bipartisan meeting with Chen Guangcheng," including Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress, in the US Capitol followed by a photo opportunity and brief remarks to reporters, Boehner's office said in a statement late Monday.

Chen, the blind activist whose flight to the US embassy in Beijing in April sparked a major diplomatic incident, had been scheduled to testify last week at a US House hearing on human rights conditions in China but declined to appear, apparently out of fear of reprisal against relatives back in China.

Chen was sentenced to more than four years in prison in 2006 after exposing abuses in China's one-child policy, and then placed under house arrest upon his release in September 2010.

The 40-year-old activist's escape from house arrest and his dramatic arrival at the US embassy in Beijing highlighted China's long-criticised human rights record.

After high-level emergency negotiations between US and Chinese officials, Chen was allowed to move to the United States.

Boehner, a pro-life conservative, has called China's one-child policy "reprehensible," and in a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Washington in January 2011 he raised the issue and said China's leaders had "a responsibility to do better" with regard to human rights.

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