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Posts from August 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. –Congressman Chris Smith, a long-time human rights advocate in Congress and senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, has been named chairman of the “Congressional-Executive Commission on the People’s Republic of China,” a congressionally-mandated, bipartisan panel made up of Members of the House and Senate and Presidential appointees serving in the Administration. Smith was appointed to the position by House Speaker John Boehner.

“China has attempted to set itself up as the alternative model to democracy while savagely persecuting democratic activists, religious believers, Tibetans, Uyghurs, women who become pregnant without a ‘birth permit,’ cyber activists who promote democracy and human rights on the internet, and many others,” said Smith, chairman of the House subcommittee that handles international human rights. “We have seen China’s military and economic power grow enormously while its record on human rights has not improved at all, and has even regressed in some areas.

“The abusive regime in China has ignored basic human rights, suppressed free speech and religious expression and illegally arrested and tortured its own citizens with impunity,” Smith said. “The China Commission has a major role in calling attention to these abuses and pressuring China to comply with basic internationally recognized standards such as those contained in the U.N. Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. For the direct benefit of those suffering in China, as well as our own national interests, it is critical that we work as hard as ever to promote fundamental freedoms and human rights in China.”

Smith also chairs the U.S. Helsinki Commission and is an executive member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.

“Congressman Smith has been a long-time leader and advocate for human rights and democratic reforms in China,” said Speaker Boehner. “I have known Chris for many years, and my appointment of him as chairman of this commission recognizes the emphasis the House of Representatives will continue to place on promoting democracy, respect for human dignity, the sanctity of life, and religious freedom for all."

Smith has a long history of advocating for human rights all over the world, including China. He has held nearly 30 hearings on Chinese human rights issues. Currently, an amendment he wrote calling for the release of blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, who along with other human rights leaders and lawyers has been persecuted relentlessly by the Chinese government, awaits full House passage. (The Smith amendment to H.R 2583).

In 2010 he successfully led an effort to nominate Liu Xiaobo for the Nobel Peace Prize. When the Chinese government refused to allow Liu to attend the ceremony, Smith and then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi represented the U.S. at the presentation ceremony. Smith also traveled to China in 2008 in an attempt to prod the government to release political prisoners in a prelude to the Olympic Games. Smith chaired a comprehensive November 2009 hearing called “Thirty Years of the One-Child Policy” which detailed human rights violations including forced sterilizations, forced abortions and “gendercide” bias against girls resulting in alarming gender imbalance seen in many areas of China today. Computers in Smith’s office and that of another congressman active in human rights in China were hacked in 2006 and 2007, with strong indications that the hackers were based in China (AP article of incident). Smith is also the author of the proposed Global Online Freedom Act, a bill that would prohibit U.S. companies from assisting in censorship and surveillance in countries like China which repress internet freedom.

The commission’s co-chairman, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), was recently appointed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Brown also served on the commission as a member of House. The commission was created by Congress in October 2000 with the legislative mandate to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China, and to submit an annual report to the President and the Congress (2010 report). The Commission consists of nine Senators, nine Members of the House, and five senior Administration officials appointed by the President. The commission maintains a list of known Chinese political and religious prisoners.

“Strong U.S. leadership is required to advance human rights in China, not only for the sake of those suffering from violent human rights abuses, but for our own sake as well,” said Smith, who was critical of President Obama’s warm welcome of Chinese President Hu Jintao earlier this year in Washington. “The interests of the U.S. depend on a future China that protects its citizens’ rights and freedoms. We have seen a bold emergence of China into African affairs, particularly in Sudan. The U.S. should speak out when necessary.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ethnic cleansing, murders, rapes and the growing humanitarian crisis in the Southern Kordofan region of Sudan were described in grisly detail by witnesses testifying at a congressional hearing on Thursday. Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) convened the emergency hearing as chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees African issues and international human rights .

Calls were made for the Obama Administration and U.S. State Department, to act to stem the escalating violence. More than 70,000 people have been displaced and an undetermined number of people killed.

“This crisis first arose in June of this year, shortly after the military forces of the Republic of the Sudan attacked the Abyei region,” said Smith, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of its Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights. “Whatever the numbers involved, we can be sure that the suffering of the people in Southern Kordofan, especially the Nuba people, has been catastrophic. The testimony presented today by witnesses who have seen the carnage reveal the horrific extent of this situation.” Click here to read Smith’s opening remarks.

The hearing was carried live by CSPAN, and can be viewed on CSPAN’s video website featuring Chairman Smith’s hearing (click here).

Smith’s panel heard from humanitarian organizations working in Sudan about aerial bombardments of civilians, killings and mass displacement of civilians. The hearing, entitled “Southern Kordofan: Ethnic Cleansing and Humanitarian Crisis in Sudan,” focused on the Government of Sudan’s attacks on the Nuba people who live in the southern area of the country, and how the crisis will negatively impact the new nation of South Sudan which declared its independence from the Republic of Sudan only last month.

The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development were invited to the hearing but did not participate. Smith announced he would be willing to hold a follow-up hearing to hear State Department or USAID testimony on the crisis.

The three witnesses who spoke were (click on names to read their opening testimony): the Rt. Reverend Andudu Adam Elnail, Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Kadugli, Sudan; Bradford Phillips, President of Persecution Project, and; Dr. Luka Biong Deng, Ph.D., President, Kush Inc.

“These are not statistics; these are real people. The only reason they are being exterminated is because they are African. We can’t sit by and watch it happen,” Phillips said. “Mr. President what are you going to do? You know it’s happening; what are you going to do?”

Bishop Andudu said his own Anglican cathedral, offices and home in Kadugli have been ransacked and looted. A member of his congregation reported seeing mass graves less than a mile away. He called on the United States and other members of the international community to begin to “translate moral outrage into effective action” to save lives.

“The Nuba people fear that we will be forgotten, that the world will stand idly by while mass killings continue without redress,” he said. “Our hope is that the United States will lead the international community in taking prompt, effective action to protect tens of thousands of displaced people, including an untold number of civilians being killed house-to-house and bombed by their own government.”

Biong Deng arrived in the U.S. last week directly from South Sudan and gave his own firsthand account of the crisis unfolding in Sudan. He is a former Minister of Cabinet Affairs for the National Unity Government and Minister for Presidential Affairs for the Government of South Sudan.

“There is no doubt what is happening in Southern Kordofan is not only ethnic cleansing but a crime against humanity, and there is a similar pattern of atrocities being committed in the entire border area,” Biong Deng said. “The world has discovered, if impunity is permitted, as evidenced by Darfur and what is now happening in the Southern Kordofan and Abyei area, we shall not have seen the last of such violence only its exportation to other areas and other victims. Given the terrain and denial of access to the affected areas, the humanitarian crisis will get even worse during the next few months. Therefore it is critical for the United States to explore creative options for getting aid to South Kordofan and Abyei.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Research and treatments for hydrocephalus developed by an American doctor working in Uganda that could benefit children around the world were the topics at a congressional hearing held Tuesday before of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights chaired by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04).

“Hydrocephalus Treatment in Uganda: Leading the Way to Help Children” featured testimony on an innovative new treatment for hydrocephalus in Uganda. The hearing was videoed by CSPAN, and can be watched by clicking here.

“This hearing is on a serious–and seriously neglected—health condition, and a relatively inexpensive, technologically-sophisticated advancement for curing it, created, designed and perfected by one of our distinguished witnesses, Dr. Benjamin Warf,” Smith said. “Dr. Warf was the first to identify neonatal infection as the chief cause of pediatric hydrocephalus in a developing country. He also developed the new surgical technique which holds great promise not only for the children of Africa but potentially for children in developed countries as well.” Click here to read Chairman Smith’s opening statement.

In the U.S. hydrocephalus is more common than Down’s syndrome or deafness, affecting 700,000 Americans. In the developed world, the prevalence is estimated to be about 1 in every 2,000 live births (1 in 500 births in the U.S). Globally, the incidence of neonatal hydrocephalus is estimated to be about 3-5 cases per 1,000 live births. Hydrocephalus is a condition in which function of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain is impaired, most commonly identified at birth. Pressure on the brain causes headaches, vomiting, cognitive problems, balance problems, convulsions, brain damage, and ultimately, death. It can be caused by an infection in the mother during pregnancy, or from a birth defect, such as spina bifida. Smith is the co-chairman of the Spina Bifida Caucus in the House.

Around the world, the standard treatment of an implanted shunt (tube-like device) is limited due to the cost, need of continued treatment and the lack of medical facilities. The combination of these factors results in thousands of preventable deaths.

At Children’s Hospital in Boston, Dr. Warf developed an innovative surgical technique that has successfully decreased the number of hydrocephalus deaths in Uganda where he performed neurosurgeries for 10 years on thousands of children. The operation combines endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV), which makes a new pathway for the fluid to escape the cavities of the brain, and endoscopic choroid plexus cauterization (CPC) which cauterizes the tissue that makes the fluid thereby reducing its rate of production, Warf said. The cost is comparable to treatment in the region for common conditions like malignancies, congenital anomalies, cataracts and glaucoma. He has taught many local doctors the latest neurosurgical techniques. The minimally invasive procedure avoids the need for shunts in most children. Thus far, more than half of infants who receive the surgery are successfully treated without requiring continued treatment.

“We developed a novel way to treat hydrocephalus using a scope that avoided shunt dependence in more than half of these babies overall, including those with post-infectious hydrocephalus,” said Dr. Warf (click here to read testimony), M.D., Director of the Neonatal and Congenital Anomalies Neurosurgery in the Department of Neurosurgery at Children's Hospital Boston (biography).

Jim Cohick, (click here to read testimony), Senior Vice President of Specialty Programs at CURE International (biography), said the majority of hydrocephalus cases treated at CURE hospitals involve the novel combination of two surgical procedures—ETV/CPC—developed in Uganda by Dr. Warf.

“The ETV/CPC technique truly is a cure for children suffering from hydrocephalus as it eliminates the need for a shunt in the brain – the standard hydrocephalus treatment, which must be replaced 3-5 times over a child’s lifetime,” Cohick said. “As you can imagine, this is a huge logistical and economic challenge in developing world locations, like Uganda. Too many children with hydrocephalus are never treated and die, and many treated with a shunt live only a short time before their shunt fails and their families are unable to access further medical care.”

Steven J. Schiff, (click here to read testimony), M.D., Director, Center for Neural Engineering, Pennsylvania State University, (biography), said what was learned in Uganda needs to be replicated in other countries.

“We need to create inexpensive technologies that can be used indigenously to reduce the costs of identifying the microorganisms, determining their resistance to drugs and developing environmental and public health strategies,” he said. “I offer three conclusions: We have not paid sufficient attention to the massive loss of human life from newborn infections in the developing world; we now have the technology to shed new light on the causes of a substantial fraction of these deaths, and; we can now develop sustainable strategies and scalable technologies to more effectively prevent the deaths and tragic survivals from these devastating illnesses. The fate of millions of lives depends upon our actions.”
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