Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith

NEW JERSEY's 4th DISTRICT

Smith Leads Congressional Mission to Assist Famine Victims in East Africa

2017/05/26

Tomorrow, Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, will be leading a Congressional delegation (CODEL) mission to war-torn South Sudan and Uganda. There, he will conduct a multi-day human rights mission into U.S. efforts to address the famine in South Sudan, caused primarily by armed conflict, and to evaluate what more can be done to help the victims.

     The conflict, which began in December of 2013, has led more than a million refugees to flee into neighboring countries, such as Uganda.  Smith will be leaving May 27th and returning June 2nd.

     We plan to visit the Bidi-Bidi refugee camp in Uganda—one of the world’s largest such camps, with a population larger than that of Newark and growing by an average 2,800 each day—and meet with individuals who continue to persevere despite being faced with truly monumental obstacles,” Chairman Smith said. “Not only are these refugees at the mercy of international donations to survive, but the citizens of Uganda, a nation that has been spared this level of conflict but faces its own challenges, are being sorely tested to maintain their generosity while still meeting their own needs.”

     More than 28 million people in East Africa are in desperate need of food aid. In Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan, the food aid needs have reached emergency levels. More than half of Somalia’s population and nearly two-thirds of South Sudan’s population face life-threatening hunger—issues examined in a March 28th subcommittee hearing, entitled “East Africa’s Quiet Famine.” 

     Since FY2014, the United States has provided more than $2.2 billion in humanitarian aid, including funding for refugee operations.  In February, the U.S. government pledged more than $25 million in humanitarian aid to Uganda, home now to more than 800,000 South Sudanese refugees.

     “The term ‘famine,’ like the term ‘genocide,’ should not be used lightly,” said Smith. “A famine reduces the ability to work by 25%, stopping economic growth when it is needed most; it decreases the ability to learn, creating a long-lasting barrier to a normal life—even after the famine has ended—and even has a negative effect on mental well-being, with those suffering from famine describing a long term loss of hope and feeling of helplessness.

     Famine has a detrimental impact across generations and is particularly acute for women and children. Children in the womb won’t have enough nourishment to complete their growth in utero. Most—if not all—will be born stunted, which will be made worse by their continuing lack of nutrition once born. Mothers are severely weakened and childbirth and these important early months are all the more difficult on mother and baby. Both mother and child suffer with damaged immune systems and will be susceptible to diseases such as cholera or acute diarrhea and may die a preventable death.”

     Similarly, residents in northern Nigeria and the Lake Chad basin region are experiencing the fourth largest humanitarian crisis in the world, with 5.2 million people facing food insecurity, largely due to conflict caused by Boko Haram. Conflict in South Sudan and Nigeria have created famine conditions and blocked humanitarian access to significant percentages of those populations. These conflicts, adding to the negative impact of changing weather patterns, may see other African nations facing similar crises in the future in countries ranging from the Central African Republic to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Cote d’Ivoire. 

     In response, Chairman Smith plans to introduce legislation this June to address the threat of regional famine in Africa. Smith also will convene a hearing on Africa’s regional famine crisis next month. The resolution and the hearing will examine innovative means of getting aid to endangered populations more quickly and efforts to enhance the ability of such populations to become more resilient in the face of ongoing crises.

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Statement on the Murder of 26 Pilgrims in Egypt

2017/05/26

Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), released the following statement on the murder of 26 civilians in Egypt:
    
     “My prayers are with the friends and families of the 28 Christian pilgrims—women and children among them—who were gunned down today in cold blood on their way to an ancient monastery in Egypt.

     “Terrorists target all peace-loving people; however they make no effort to hide their concerted attempts to purge the Middle East of Christians and other religious minorities. In claiming responsibility for the double church bombings in Egypt on Palm Sunday, one of the ISIS attackers vowed that Christians are ‘a target at the top of our priorities’ and that more attacks would be coming.

     “The U.S. should take the lead in advocating for these persecuted populations. We, and our allies like Egypt, must take urgent action to stop this bloodletting and guarantee safety and equal protection under the law to all Christians and other religious minorities of the region. Local-level investigations, prosecutions and convictions of perpetrators are essential to the security of those who are under siege in Egypt and elsewhere.

     “The U.S. must also support criminal investigations into perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against religious minorities in other parts of the region, as directed in the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act (H.R. 390). Unless perpetrators are held accountable for targeting religious minorities, these communities will be even more endangered throughout the Middle East.”

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Helping Ensure That All Veterans Get The Care They Have Earned

2017/05/25

Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), former Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, delivered the following statement on the House floor:

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to express my strong support for the significant package of the veteran’s bills that we considered in the House both yesterday and today.

As the former Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee (2001 through 2005), I am acutely aware of the challenges our veterans face, especially as they transition from military to civilian life. As Chairman, I authored more than a dozen laws to expand health, education, job training and homelessness benefits for the men and women who served in uniform. Thankfully these laws continue to help our veterans today.

Still, there are new problems and new issues that urgently need our attention. Massive wait times, forged documents by VA officials, ineptitude, lack of equipment and understaffing at VA medical facilities are just a few of the significant transgressions that have been exposed and are undermining the quality of service and the treatment our veterans receive.

In 2014 and 2016 Congress passed the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act (P.L. 113–146) and the Faster Care for Veterans Act (P.L. 114–286), respectively, to usher in a complete overhaul of VA systems and to institute new technological services for scheduling and in order to secure more timely appointments.

Some, but not nearly enough, progress has occurred. Much more must be done.

I commend Chairman PHIL ROE, MD and his team at the Veterans Affairs Committee on the package of bills before us this week. All seven will help improve the benefit  programs and the delivery of healthcare service for our veterans.

For instance, The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (H.R. 2288) will empower veterans who have been denied benefits to have more options as they pursue their appeals. Under the new bill, vets will be able to waive a hearing and submit additional evidence, pursue a hearing and submit additional evidence, or transfer the jurisdiction of their case to the Board of Veterans Appeals. The new options should help cut through some wait time.

The VA Scheduling Accountability Act (H.R. 467) would require an annual certification of compliance with scheduling directives. Additionally the bill blocks awards and bonuses to any leadership personnel at any medical center that fails to comply with the scheduling directives. Another bill before us, H.R. 1005 would allow the federal government to enter into agreements with state veteran’s homes to pay for adult day health care for certain eligible veterans.

The No Hero Left Untreated Act (H.R. 1162) will create a one year pilot program at the VA to use innovative therapy to treat veterans who suffer from invisible wounds, which include post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury (TBI), military sexual trauma, chronic pain, or opiate addiction. As the author of the Veterans Health Programs Improvement Act (P.L. 108–422) which authorized regional veteran polytrauma centers for multiple injuries including TBI, I fully support H.R. 1162 as a way to ensure that the VA is able to adapt to the newest and best practices for treating veterans with these unique traumas and conditions.

The Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act of 2017 (H.R. 1725) will require stronger reporting requirements from the Department of Veterans Affairs regarding the necessity for inperson disability examinations; and the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2017 (H.R. 1329) will increase the cost-of-living-adjustment for  disabled veterans who receive compensation to equal the same rate of increase for citizens who receive Social Security in 2018.

Finally, the VA Prescription Data Accountability Act (H.R. 1545) will help combat drug addiction among our veterans by creating better information and data sharing between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the states’ recording programs.

Mr. Speaker, let me remind my colleagues that while this package of veterans bills marks another step forward, we cannot be lulled into thinking that the Department of Veterans Affairs and the delivery of veterans’ benefits and healthcare will be forever fixed simply with the enactment of new legislation, no matter how well written.

Good legislation is the necessary, minimum first step. But equally important is the full and consistent implementation of the new laws, along with regular and aggressive oversight by this Congress. We must be vigilant and continue to push to ensure that all veterans get the care they have earned—at the time they need it—not months or years later.

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Bill Condemning Turkish Violence Passes Committee

2017/05/25

Today, the House Foreign Affairs Committee advanced several key pieces of legislation with the support of Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), a senior member on the Committee and chair of the House panel that oversees global health and human rights.

     One of bills to advance, H. Res. 354, condemns the violence against peaceful protesters outside the Turkish Ambassador’s residence on May 16, 2017 and calls on the United States to take further steps to strengthen freedoms for the press in countries such as Turkey. Smith noted the particular importance of this bill as one of the several individuals attacked during the peaceful protest was a resident of Smith’s home state of New Jersey.

     Smith spoke and advocated passage of the bill during the mark up and debate in Committee.

     “I watched the videos of these horrendous attacks and I was outraged when thugs from the Turkish embassy beat up peaceful demonstrators, including New Jersey resident Ceren Borazan, who were objecting to the alarming move away from democracy and rule of law that has occurred under President Erdogan,” said Smith. “By such an impulsive reaction, the representatives of the Turkish government confirmed our worst fears.”

     “Ceren is asking for justice, and she deserves it,” Smith concluded.

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<span class ="kicker">Twp. to receive fed funding for medical equipment</span>Robbinsville Fire Dept. Awarded $22K Grant

2017/05/25

The Robbinsville Township Fire Department was awarded a grant in the amount of $22,740 from the Department of Homeland Security through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program, announced Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) today.

The grant will be used to purchase four defibrillators and one CPR device, surely among the most live-saving of equipment that a firefighter can bring to bear in an emergency response,” Smith said. “The grant covers 95 percent of the total cost of the equipment, and will replace older equipment that has become unreliable and in need of repeated repairs. I commend Mayor Fried and Chief Schaffener for proactively seeking these types of life-saving grants year after year. They have been very successful in obtaining this critical equipment which is key to providing fire protection to the community.”

Robbinsville Township and our Fire Department, led by Chief Daniel Schaffener, is extremely thankful to Congressman Chris Smith and his staff for their assistance and support during the application process,” Mayor Dave Fried said. “Without the direct support of our application and the overall program support of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program by Rep. Smith, the RTFD would be faced with some difficult realities regarding the safety of our firefighters and residents. The benefits of this award for our department and local residents is immeasurable. It gives the RTFD the ability to provide a reliable defibrillator on each of our two engines and each of our two in-service ambulances. Additionally, it allows us to provide an Automatic Chest Compression Device on our primary ambulance. In other words, this grant will save lives.”

A long-time member of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, Smith helped create the AFG  grant program in 2000. The aim of the AFG grant program is to meet the firefighting and emergency response needs of fire departments and EMS organizations across the country. Since 2001, it has helped firefighters and other first responders to obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training and other resources needed to protect the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards.

Recent AFG grants to Robbinsville include $111,585 in 2015 used to replace 16 sets of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA’s) needed by firefighters to maintain an adequate air supply when entering dangerous conditions. The department’s existing SCBAs were at the end of their serviceable life and had become a maintenance and safety concern. In 2016 it also won a $13,393 federal grant for a cost-saving health and wellness program intended to result in healthier, more physically fit firefighting forces, which in turn provide cost-savings to towns by reducing sick time, workers’ comp claims and disability.

The funding comes through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) Operations and Safety Grant Program. It is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in cooperation with the U.S. Fire Administration. The purpose of AFG is to award grants directly to fire departments and non-affiliated Emergency Medical Services organizations (EMS) to protect both the health and safety of the public, and first-responder personnel as well. A competitive process overseen by fire service subject matter experts awards grants to applicants whose requests are aligned with the priorities of the AFG Program. For more about the FY 2016 AFG Program please visit http://www.fema.gov/assistance-firefighters-grant.

This is round 6 of the competitive FY2016 fire grant announcements.

Congressman Smith, who represents New Jersey’s Fourth Congressional District in the House of Representatives, has offices in Mercer, Monmouth, and Ocean Counties.  The Mercer County office is located at 4573 South Broad Street, Hamilton. The phone number is (609) 585-7878.

 

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Smith Legislation Will Help Ensure Kids Get Home Safely

2017/05/25

National Missing Children’ Day, established by President Reagan in 1983 and marked every May 25th since, encourages the nation to remember children who have gone missing and work to help parents, guardians, caregivers an organizations dedicated to the well-being of children.

     To that end, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) today announced that they will be reintroducing legislation designed to protect children with developmental disabilities, such as autism, who are prone to wander and go missing from safety.

     “Each and every one of us empathizes with a parent who learns that their child is missing, especially when that child has autism or another developmental disability,” said Smith, who co-Chairs the Congressional Autism Caucus. “When a child with a disability wanders, we must use any and all tools available to ensure their quick and safe return. That is why this Congress I will reintroduce the bipartisan, bicameral Kevin and Avonte’s Law, giving law enforcement the resources they need to help kids who wander get home safely.”

     Last year, Smith shepherded similar legislation through the House winning an overwhelming vote of 346-66 in December, but the bill was not acted upon before the Senate adjourned.  The new bill will also seek to reauthorize and expand the Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program, to include, for the first time, children with a developmental disability. The new program will be named the “Missing Americans Alert Program.”

     Under the new proposal, grants could be made to law enforcement agencies, public safety agencies and nonprofit organizations to support proactive educational programing to prevent wandering for families, educators and caretakers of individuals who wander, as well as training to first responders and school personnel in order to recognize and respond to endangered missing individuals and facilitate their rescue and recovery.

     Additionally, this funding could be used for voluntary, non-invasive technologies including bracelets that help facilitate the rescue and recovery of children who’ve wandered.

     “National Missing Children’s day is a time to remember those young ones who have been separated from their families, and to consider how we can better help communities prevent and respond to cases of missing children going forward,” said Grassley. “Stories of loved ones who wander away from safety because of a medical condition are all too common.  Congressman Smith and I, along with a bipartisan group of colleagues across Congress, are working on legislation to honor the lives lost after wandering away from safety by helping communities better assist in the location of missing children.  Our bill is an important step in preventing future tragedies.”

     “Project Lifesaver, and other nongovernmental, nonprofit programs like it, have saved hundreds of lives, with an average rescue time of under 30 minutes,” said Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden who is responsible for bringing the Project Lifesaver program to Monmouth County and credited the technologies with helping to find missing children more quickly. 

     “With the implementation of a nationwide, federally driven program, such as a system to be created by Smith’s legislation, countless more could be saved,” he said.

     “Wandering is one of the most concerning challenging behaviors for individuals with ASD,” said Suzanne Buchanan, Executive Director of Autism New Jersey. “This behavior presents safety risks including drowning, getting struck by traffic, falling from a high place, dehydration or worse. In recent years, accidental drowning after wandering accounted for 91 percent of total U.S. deaths reported in children with ASD ages 14 and younger.”

     “Wandering is extremely frightening for many parents of children with autism,” said Angela Geiger, President and CEO of Autism Speaks. “Kevin and Avonte’s Law will make children with autism safer.  We thank Representative Smith for championing legislation to protect our children.” 

     “As a tribute to families that have experienced the feeling of fear and helplessness when a loved one turns up missing, we are proud to support this critical wandering prevention legislation designed to keep individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities safe,” said Scott Badesch, President/Chief Executive Officer at Autism Society. “Kevin and Avonte’s Law creates a vehicle for law enforcement and community entities to partner together to ultimately eliminate incidents of wandering from home or other community spaces.”

     “This is an issue that really hits home for me,” said Smith. “Last year, a 4 year old boy from my state of New Jersey wandered from supervision and tragically drowned near his home in Salem County. This legislation will fill a great and urgent need. Since 2011, more than 100 individuals with autism died after wandering from a safe environment.”

     Kevin and Avonte’s Law builds on Smith’s proven record of ensuring children are returned to their parents. In 2014, Smith’s bill, the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (The Goldman Act, P.L. 113-150), was signed into law. The Goldman Act enacted a major shift in Congress’ and the State Department’s understanding of the pain and suffering caused by international child abduction and gave the State Department tools, such as withdrawal of U.S. security assistance or implementation sanctions, to successfully resolve overseas abduction and access cases involving American children.

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<span class="kicker">Smith urges Trump to hold Vietnam's leaders to account</span>No More Free Passes for Vietnam

2017/05/25

Representative Chris Smith held a hearing today on the “silent human rights crisis” in Vietnam urging President Trump to condition better U.S.-Vietnam relations on “concrete, verifiable and irreversible” human rights improvements.

     President Trump meets with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Wednesday, May 31, 2017 at the White House. At the hearing Smith also released a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging him to prioritize religious freedom in Vietnam because of the government’s egregious abuses targeting religious groups. 

     “For too long Vietnam has gotten a free pass on human rights,” said Smith, chairman of the House panel on global human rights. “Diplomats are so focused on the fact that Vietnam is ‘not China’ that this oppressive police state is granted trade and security benefits without condition. President Trump has a real opportunity to bring about tangible reforms in Vietnam if he links better U.S.-Vietnam relations to tangible human rights improvements. This will be warmly welcomed by the Vietnamese people who want the U.S. to be a voice for freedom—because their voice is silenced.” Click Here for Smith’s Statement.

     Last year, Smith held a hearing with Vu Minh Khanh, the wife of Vietnamese prisoner of conscience Nguyen Van Dai. At the hearing, entitled “Will President Obama Prioritize the Release of Prisoners of Conscience in Vietnam?,” Vu spoke of her husband’s commitment to religious freedom, human rights and democracy. Smith first met with Nguyen Van Dai on a trip to Vietnam in 2005, two years prior to his first arrest.

     The U.S. State Department has noted that while the normalizing of relations has provided a great economic boom in Vietnam, advances in political liberties, human rights and religious freedoms have not improved. Reporters Without Borders rated Vietnam as 6th from the bottom, beating mostly notable world pariahs such as Turkmenistan and North Korea and falling behind countries like Yemen and Iran.

     Smith noted the opportunity that President Trump has to change decades of failed U.S. policies by speaking out for the Vietnamese people, the younger generation which seeks rights and freedoms similar to those, “enjoyed by their relatives in California, Virginia, Texas, New Jersey and everywhere these former Vietnamese refugees have flourished.

     “President Trump should pursue religious freedom, internet freedom, independent labor unions and the release of over 100 prisoners of conscience—as a condition of U.S. assistance.  These fundamental freedoms are directly related to U.S. interests in a better business climate, fairer trade, investor confidence, expansion of economic freedom, and civil society development. Failing to press for real and concrete human rights improvements underestimates U.S. leverage and will disappoint the young generation in Vietnam.  It should be clear by now that Vietnam needs the U.S. markets and security commitments much more than the U.S. needs Vietnam’s markets and security cooperation.”

     After the hearing, Smith wrote to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson providing evidence of severe and systematic religious freedom abuses targeting all of Vietnam’s Christian, Buddhist and indigenous religious groups.  The letter urged the Secretary to prioritize this issue in bilateral relations and to hold Vietnamese government officials accountable for abuses by using the tools available in the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, a bill Smith introduced and was passed into law last year.

     At the hearing, Quan Q. Nguyen, the Chairman of Rallying For Democracy in Vietnam, explained through impassioned testimony, delivered by his associate, what it is like to live under the Communist regime, “To the communists, ‘religion is opium’ and they strictly follow that crazy idea! The Hanoi government's policy has always been to repress religious freedom.” Click Here for his full statement.

     Also testifying at today’s hearing was Nguyen Dinh Thang, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Boat People SOS (Click Here for his full statement) and T. Kumar, Director of International Advocacy at Amnesty International (Click Here for his full statement).

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Vietnamese Human Rights Topic of House Hearing

2017/05/19

Next Thursday, Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House panel on global human rights, will be chairing a hearing entitled “Vietnam: Why Religious Freedom and Human Rights are Critical to U.S. National Interests.” The hearing will provide insight on the current human rights situation in Vietnam and serve as an additional pillar of information prior to the visit of Vietnamese Prime Minister, Nguyễn Xuân Phúc.

     “The Vietnamese Communist government severely restricts religious freedom and the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recently recommended that Vietnam be redesignated by the State Department as a ‘Country of Particular Concern,’ the annual blacklist of countries like China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea and Egypt that torture and jail religious believers and severely restrict religious practice,” said Smith. “When the Vietnamese Prime Minister visits the U.S. later this month, the Trump administration has an opportunity to assert that the American people will not subsidize the harsh repression of religious groups, democracy advocates, bloggers and journalists.”

Who:              
Chairman Smith (NJ-04), Senior Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations; other members of the Committee

Witness:         
Quan Q. Nguyen, M.D.
Chairman
Rallying for Democracy

Nguyen Dinh Thang, Ph.D.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Boat People SOS

Mr. T. Kumar
Director of International Advocacy
Amnesty International

What:             
House hearing on human rights in Vietnam

When:            
Thursday, May 25, 2017 12:30 PM

Where:           
Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2172 (first floor)

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Disappeared, Jailed And Tortured in China: Wives Petition For Their Husbands’ Freedom

2017/05/19

Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the House panel on human rights, delivered the following address on the House Floor:

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, lawyer Xie Yang was tortured for the better part of two years because he dared to represent China’s poor and persecuted. The account of his detention is both harrowing and horrible.

Xie Yang was sleep deprived and kept in isolation. Squads of police punched and kicked him for hours at a time. He was forced to sit still for hours on a precarious stack of plastic chairs; his feet dangling painfully off the ground. Police made threats to his wife and children and said they would turn him into an ‘‘invalid’’ unless he confessed to political crimes.

Xie Yang and his fellow human rights lawyers wanted the best for China, but they got the very worst.

Since July 2015, almost 250 lawyers and legal assistants were detained sending a chilling message to those fighting for legal reforms and human rights.

At yesterday’s hearing in the human rights subcommittee that I chair, we came together to shine a light on the brutal, illegal, and dehumanizing use of torture and forced disappearance of human rights lawyers and rights advocates in China.

We shine a light on dictatorships because nothing good happens in the dark. And, as we learned yesterday, there are some very dark places in China.

Chinese officials repeatedly tell me I should focus more on the positive aspects of China and not dwell so much on the negative.

That is a difficult task when you read Xie Yang’s story, read Gao Zhisheng’s account of his torture, or read the accounts of Yu Jie or Golog Jigme or Yin Liping.

It is a difficult task when you look at Li Chunfu and his brother Li Heping.

These are some of China’s best and bravest— now with broken bodies, shattered minds and faces that have aged 20 years after two years of solitary confinement and torture.

It is shocking, offensive, immoral, and inhumane. It is also completely possible that Chinese officials believe the international community will not hold them accountable.

While President Xi Jinping is feted at Davos and lauded in foreign capitals for his public commitment to openness, his government is torturing and abusing those seeking rights guaranteed by China’s own Constitution and its international obligations.

One Oxford university scholar has said that Xi has built the ‘‘perfect dictatorship’’—an increasingly repressive garrison state that avoids any international censure.

Through the UN and the sanctions available in the Global Magnitsky Act, we should be seeking to hold accountable any Chinese officials complicit in torture and illegal detentions.

Xie Yang identified at least 10 police officers who tortured him. We are in the process of gathering names and identifying information. I will then send those names to President Trump, Secretary of State Tillerson, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and the Chairs and ranking members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

We will seek UN investigations into the torture of China’s human rights lawyers and human rights defenders because their treatment in detention violates China’s obligations as signatory of the UN Torture Convention.

We will also seek investigations under the Global Magnitsky Act. I introduced the House version of that bill, which was signed into law last year.

That law says explicitly that any foreign government officials who engages in or is complicit in torture can be sanctioned—by denying entry visas into the United State or by imposing financial sanctions.

Those who tortured Xie Yang and Li Heping should never benefit from access to the United States or our financial system.

We will hear testimony yesterday from the wives of detained human rights lawyers. We also heard from Ms. Li Ching-Yu, the wife of detained Taiwanese democracy advocate Lee Ming-che.

After entering mainland China in March of this year for a personal trip, Mr. Lee went missing for 10 days before Chinese officials confirmed that he was being held on so-called ‘‘national security’’ grounds.

Many fear Mr. Lee is being detained under a harsh new Chinese law to monitor and control foreignfunded NGOs, enforced earlier this year as part of a crackdown on civil society. His detention fits the trend of the Chinese government targeting activists, dissidents, or even scholars based abroad.

The Taiwan government is working behind the scenes to resolve Lee Ming-che’s case, though I am sure such efforts are hindered by Taiwan’s lack of international clout and its complicated diplomatic ties with Beijing.

As I have said before, Taiwan is an important democratic ally and a beacon of peace and democracy in Asia. The U.S. should remain committed to the Taiwan Relations Act and the ‘‘Six Assurances’’ as cornerstones of U.S.-Taiwan relations.

Political issues between China and Taiwan should be resolved through appropriate mechanisms between the two sides. The Chinese government decision to detain Lee Ming-che signaled Chinese officials’ willingness to break its international human rights obligations for political gains, needlessly straining cross-strait relations.

We welcomed Ms. Li Ching-Yu’s testimony yesterday in order to increase the level of international interest and attention to her husband’s case.

The Chinese government is facing a new and unexpected phenomenon—effective advocacy campaigns waged by the wives of tortured and detained rights advocates. I truly admire the brave women who are challenging the Chinese government to live up to its highest ideals. They are an inspiration.

Through the testimony provided during yesterday’s hearing, we considered the almost two year effort by President Xi Jinping’s government to eviscerate China’s network of human rights lawyers and consider how the continued detention of Lee Ming-che has negatively impacted cross-strait relations between Beijing and Taipei. Read More

<span class="kicker">The Trenton Monitor Reports</span>NJ's Chris Smith calls for vigorous leadership, diplomacy to protect religious freedom

2017/05/18

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. congressman told attendees at a Washington summit on Christian persecution that "more than ever before, vigorous U.S. leadership and diplomacy are needed to address religious freedom violations globally."

"Religious persecution is festering and exploding around the world. What has been unconscionable for decades, centuries, has gotten worse," Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, said May 12 in remarks at the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians.

The May 10-13 summit was convened by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and drew several hundred religious leaders and victims of Christian persecution from around the world.

Smith noted that a Washington conference held a month before, titled "Under Caesar's Sword," had "underscored the fact that Christians are the most persecuted religious community globally." In conjunction with that conference, a report was issued detailing the nature of persecution against Christians in different nations across the globe.

"In many countries, Christians suffer genocide and face an existential threat. For many believers, refusal to renounce Jesus Christ means martyrdom, rape, torture and pain," Smith said.

He recalled that 37 years ago during his first term in Congress, he was moved to tears by reading a book titled "Tortured for Christ" by a Romanian Christian pastor, Richard Wurmbrand, who also was the founder of the Voice of the Martyrs.

"As so many of you know, it is the true story of unspeakable physical torture and psychological abuse of underground Christians under Romania's dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and Pastor Wurmbrand's harrowing 14-year incarceration," he said. "Sabina, his brave wife, also suffered prison and forced labor for her faith."

"Like so many, I was inspired by Pastor Wurmbrand's indomitable faith, breathtaking courage and hope and challenged by his admonishment to believers to cease enabling evil by our naivete, coldhearted indifference or cowardly complicity," Smith added.

In 1982, he made his first "religious freedom mission" to Moscow and Leningrad on behalf of Soviet Jews, and his most recent such trip was before last Christmas to visit some of the Christian survivors of Islamic State genocide, and to press the U.S. and United Nations to help them. He and his delegation traveled to Iraq at the invitation of Iraqi Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil. They visited a camp with 6,000 refugees.

"We then sat with Christians and heard stories of ISIS atrocities, the desecration of churches, the crucifixions of young men who refused to join ISIS, and the sexual slavery forced on some young Christian girls," Smith said. "We also heard stories of hope, faith and charity -- and joined in prayers for the persecuted and those who persecute."

The Archdiocese of Irbil has been sustaining the survivors with medical care, food and shelter, and also assisting Yezidis and Muslims who escaped ISIS, Smith said. At that point not "a single penny" in aid had been offered by the U.S. and U.N. humanitarian agencies -- despite Smith chairing nine congressional hearings about it, he said.

Help also was forthcoming from the Aid to the Church in Need, the Knights of Columbus and other U.S. and European charities.

Since his trip, Smith reported, U.S. and U.N. representatives have visited these refugees and "have promised aid and protection."

"Whether it be defending unborn babies and their mothers from the wanton violence of abortion or protecting the vulnerable victims of human trafficking or feeding the hungry or mitigating terrorism and war -- the exponential increase in the number of persecuted Christians worldwide today, begs a far more robust, effective and sustained response."

He said tools embedded in laws such as the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act "need to be rigorously utilized" by the United States to respond to this crisis.

President Barack Obama Dec. 16 signed the bipartisan measure, which was written by Smith and co-sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California. It gave the Obama administration and now the Trump administration and the U.S. State Department new tools, resources and training to counter extremism and combat a worldwide escalation of persecution of religious minorities.

It will improve U.S. religious freedom diplomacy efforts globally; better train and equip diplomats to counter extremism; address anti-Semitism and religious persecution and mitigate sectarian conflict.

Smith said more work must be done to meet the needs of genocide victims of Iraq and Syria. To that end, in January he reintroduced the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act, or H.R. 390. The House Foreign Affairs Committee adopted the measure, and Smith hoped for House passage "within days."

"This bill directs the U.S. government to provide humanitarian assistance to Christians and other religious minorities who survived the genocide and support ongoing criminal investigations into perpetrators to ensure they are held accountable," he explained.

This article originally appeared in the Trenton Monitor on May 17, 2017. The original can be found here: http://www.trentonmonitor.com/main.asp?SectionID=4&SubSectionID=38&ArticleID=15424 Read More

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Contact Information

2373 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone 202-225-3765
Fax 202-225-7768
chrissmith.house.gov

Elected in 1980, Rep. Chris Smith (R-Robbinsville, N.J.) is currently in his 17th term in the U.S. House of Representatives, and serves residents in the Fourth Congressional District of New Jersey. Smith, 60, currently serves as a senior member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and is chairman of its Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organization Subcommittee. In 2011-2012 he chaired both the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. He also serves as “Special Representative” on Human Trafficking for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and as an executive member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. Previously, he served as Chairman of the Veterans Committee (two terms) and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Operations and the Subcommittee on Africa.

Smith has long chaired a number of bipartisan congressional caucuses (working groups) including the Pro-life (31 years), Autism (15 years), Alzheimer’s (13 years), Lyme Disease (nineyears), Spina Bifida (nine years), Human Trafficking (nine years), Refugees (nine years), and Combating Anti-Semitism caucuses, and serves on caucuses on Bosnia, Uganda and Vietnam.

According to the independent watchdog organization Govtrack, as of January 2014 Smith ranks fourth among all 435 Members of the House over the last two decades in the number of laws authored.

He is the author of America’s three landmark anti-human trafficking laws including The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, a comprehensive law designed to prevent modern-day slavery, protect victims, and enhance civil and criminal penalties against traffickers, as well as more than a dozen veterans health, education and homeless benefits laws, and laws to boost embassy security, promote democracy, religious freedom, and health care.

Smith is the author of the $265 million Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005 which established a nationwide program for ethical research and treatment using umbilical cord blood and bone marrow cells. That landmark law was reauthorized in September 2010 for another five years.
In October 2011, Smith’s bill, HR 2005, the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA) of 2011, was signed into law (Public Law PL112-32), a follow-up to his Autism Statistics, Surveillance, Research, and Epidemiology Act (ASSURE) of 2000.

A lifelong New Jerseyan, Congressman Smith graduated from The College of New Jersey with a degree in business administration. Prior to being elected to Congress, he helped run a small business– his family’s wholesale sporting goods corporation. He is also the former Executive Director of the New Jersey Right to Life Committee.

The congressman is married to his wife of 35 years, Marie, and they have four grown children.


Serving With

Frank LoBiondo

NEW JERSEY's 2nd DISTRICT

Tom MacArthur

NEW JERSEY's 3rd DISTRICT

Leonard Lance

NEW JERSEY's 7th DISTRICT

Rodney Frelinghuysen

NEW JERSEY's 11th DISTRICT

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