Live Blog: Chen Guangcheng Makes Phone Call to Congressional Hearing to Ask for Hillary’s HelpPosted: May 3, 2012
A short time ago, activist Chen Guangcheng made a direct call from his hospital room to a Congressional Hearing on China.
Calling in to the Congressional Executive Commission on China, dissident Chen Guangcheng told lawmakers he is concerned for the safety of his family and he wants to thank Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her efforts to help him over the past few days.
“I hope I can get more help from her,” he said over speakerphone to the two Republican lawmakers who were present.
The 40-year-old lawyer became famous last week after had taken refuge in the U.S. embassy after escaping more than a year and a half of house arrest. In a deal between the U.S. and China, Chen was then released to a Chinese hospital and is now under Chinese control. Chen initially said he wanted to stay in China but shortly after leaving the embassy he changed his mind.
“The thing I (am) most concerned (about) right now is the safety of my mother, my brothers, and I really want to know what’s going on with them,” Chen said through a translator at Thursday’s congressional hearing.
Chen said he wanted to come to the United States for some “rest,” because he has not rested for 10 years.
I’ve highlighted the portions of the article that refer to Hillary. It sounds to me as if Chen does trust Hillary. Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t see why he would be specifically asking for her help if he did not.
There is a lot of news breaking on this story, so I thought I’d put it up as a live blog so we could discuss what’s happening in China right now. I haven’t been following the story closely, but it appears to me that some very delicate negotiations are probably going on behind the scenes.
I really don’t think it’s helpful for Mitt Romney and Republican lawmakers who have no way of knowing what is really happening to be attacking the Obama administration in the midst of a human rights crisis. Hasn’t there always been tradition of the other party stepping back in situations like this and waiting for the outcome before attacking? Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it.
Here is what Mitt Romney had to say earlier this afternoon.
Romney, in a speech in Portsmouth, accused the administration of seeking to hasten Chen’s departure from the embassy placing economic concerns above Chen’s freedom.
“The reports are, if they are accurate, that our administration, willingly or unwittingly communicated to Chen an implicit threat to his family, and also probably sped up, or may have sped up the process of his decision to leave the embassy because they wanted to move on to a series of discussions that Mr. Geithner and our secretary of state are planning to have with China,” Romney said.
“It’s also apparent according to these reports, if they are accurate, that our embassy failed to put in place the kind of verifiable measures that would ensure the safety of Mr. Chen and his family,” Romney added. “If these reports are true, this is a dark day for freedom. And it’s a day of shame for the Obama administration. We are a place of freedom here and around the world, and we should stand up and defend freedom wherever it is under attack.”
So far, I haven’t been able to find any evidence that Hillary pushed Chen to leave the U.S. Embassy. I’ve read that he wanted to leave because he found out that his wife had been beaten. From the Guardian UK
The activist, who is blind, left the US embassy in Beijing after agreeing to a deal allowing him to stay in China and study law at university, with reassurances from authorities.
But it appears he changed his mind after being reunited with his wife, Yuan Weijing, and their children at the hospital, talking to friends about the risks, and learning from Yuan about apparent threats made by local officials in the eastern province of Shandong, where the family lived under a brutal regime of illegal house arrest for 19 months prior to his escape.
So Chen learned about the threats to his family after he got to the hospital and talked to his wife. He didn’t learn this from U.S. officials while he was in the Embassy. So why is Romney saying that? IMHO, it is totally inappropriate for any politician of any party to be making public statements in the midst of an international crisis. If Republicans have concerns about the situation, they should be working behind the scenes, not attacking the very people who are trying to help Chen.
Later in article the guardian reports that on Wednesday night State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland:
said in a statement that no US official spoke to Chen about physical or legal threats to his family and nor did the Chinese relay any such threats to American diplomats.
She added that Chen had expressed his desire to stay in China throughout talks.
But she confirmed US officials had passed on the Chinese warning that his family would be returned to Shandong if he stayed at the embassy.
“The problem is not that they relayed it to him – as they should have done – but that it should have raised alarm bells. You have to conclude that if the authorities were ready to play these games they were probably not ready to guarantee his safety,” said Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch.
Gary Locke, the US ambassador, told reporters he could say unequivocally that Chen was never pressured to leave the embassy.
Even if the State Department erred, I think it is wrong for Romney to be attacking the administration in the middle of tense and delicate negotiations taking place on the other side of the world.
What do you think? I’m continuing to read about this case and will add more links in the comments.