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MyWestTexas: Chen case increases awareness of ChinaAid

Sunday, May 6, 2012 Posted: Saturday, May 5, 2012 7:15 pm | Updated: 4:17 pm, Sun May 6, 2012.  Kathleen Petty

Just more than a week ago, few outside of the close-knit Chinese dissident movement had ever heard of ChinaAid Association.

The Midland-based nonprofit had accumulated a faithful group of West Texas supporters. But, said Bob Fu, its founder and president, most others in the U.S. -- and even many of those who drive by their Big Spring Street office each day -- knew little about the inner workings of the ministry.

With the escape from house arrest of lawyer Chen Guangcheng and the subsequent brokering by U.S. officials for his safety during the last week, that's all changed.

"It is like a roller coaster this whole week," said Fu, speaking after finishing TV interviews in Washington, D.C. For his role in Chen's plight, Fu has been featured in numerous media outlets in the last few days, including The Washington Post, CNN, and Reuters. "It's just (an) overwhelming response. I think people genuinely, really are showing their care about this Chinese family."

Fu said he knew about Chen's escape before it was discovered by police in China. He's been in contact with Chen -- who he has known for more than 10 years -- since that time.

When testifying at an urgent Congressional Executive Commission on China hearing called Thursday, Fu phoned Chen and allowed the activist to speak on his own behalf. The next day, it was announced Chinese officials would allow Chen to apply for a visa to study law at New York University. His paperwork in the U.S. will be expedited once his forms in China are complete, according to the State Department.

"It was part of the game changer," Fu said of Chen's phone call during the hearing. "It was a very, very critical moment."

Fu has been cited this week by U.S. representatives and human rights activists as the leading source on China and its freedom movement. Fu points to God as the reason he's been able to help in raising awareness, both among government officials and the public.

In Chen's case, Fu said he and his staff were overwhelmed and humbled by the interest supporters have shown. Their typically quiet office has turned into a command center of sorts for Chen and his family. Everyone from the IT supporter to the bookkeeper have been taking calls and arranging ChinaAid interviews with reporters from all over the world.

"It's a miracle," Fu said. "We think really the Lord has delivering plans for this family."
As things settle down in the coming weeks and Chen's case inevitably falls into the background, Fu said he's hopeful those who pushed for Chen's safety will continue to support others like him.

"There are many Chen Guangchengs in China," Fu said.

If persecution of those in the underground Christian church movement -- of which Fu and his wife, Heidi, were a part before fleeing China for their own safety in 1996 -- and those fighting against human rights violations continues, Fu said he believes more people will work for change.

"It's a double (-edged) sword. The more suppression and persecution, there will be more faithful freedom defenders and fighters come out from China," he said. "They will actively help China to build a civil society and to advance freedom and the rule of law. I think I am actually more optimistic."

For his own part, Fu said he and the staff at ChinaAid will continue the work since the nonprofit was founded 10 years ago. The group aims to expose abuses taking place in China, support those working on behalf of religious freedom and human rights and also provide training to lawyers like Chen.

When speaking with media from around the world last week, Fu said each would ask in their own way, "Why Midland?"

They didn't understand how a dusty West Texas town had become the hub of Chinese activism in the U.S.

"It's a small city with a big heart," Fu said he told each of them. A place where "everybody wants to change the world."

The notoriety his organization has gained for its role in Chen's escape is something Fu said had nothing to do with him.

"Really, it's a God thing. Our conclusion is that if we humble ourselves before the Lord and do the work he called us to faithfully and wisely and really humbly (to do), the Lord will exalt us in his own time," Fu said. "Apparently this is one of his times."

Kathleen Petty can be reached at

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Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985

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"Bob Fu has dedicated his life to bringing freedom of religion to the Chinese people. His story is a testimony to the power of faith and an inspiration to people struggling to break free from oppression."
—Mrs. Laura Bush

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