Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng made a dramatic plea for help in a cellphone call to a U.S. congressional hearing from his hospital bed in Beijing, raising the pressure on President Barack Obama over his administration’s handling of the case.
Chen, a self-taught legal activist, sheltered in the U.S. Embassy for six days until Wednesday. He left the embassy shortly before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary of Clinton arrived in Beijing for talks aimed at improving economic and strategic relations between the two superpowers.
But within hours, Chen changed his mind about a deal that U.S. officials had said would allow him to relocate with his family and pursue his studies at a university.
Thursday’s U.S. congressional hearing on Chen’s case took a dramatic turn when a witness called the dissident on his cellphone and relayed his appeal for help to members of Congress and the media.
U.S. officials have defended their handling of the case, but Republicans and Chen’s supporters were critical, saying the White House must ensure Chen’s safety. He sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy after escaping from house arrest in a village in rural Shandong province on April 22.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said if the reports were accurate, the U.S. Embassy “failed to put in place the kind of verifiable measures that would ensure the safety of Mr. Chen and his family.”
Some rights activists also were critical.
“We have learned that when people come to the United States Embassy they are not in fact 100 per cent safe,” said Reggie Littlejohn, president of the advocacy group Women’s Rights Without Frontiers.
“They can be turned over to the Chinese authorities from whom they were attempting to escape,” she told a news conference in Washington. Montreal Gazette
Insinuating that officials at the US Embassy in Beijing misled him, Chinese rights activist Chen Guangcheng told CNN in an interview that he was ‘very disappointed’ in the United States following six days under their protection before leaving the embassy on Tuesday. Chen sought refuge in the embassy after escaping from house arrest where he and his family have been under tight restrictions by the Chinese government. Common Dreams
When asked if he felt lied to by the United States, Chen responded: “I feel a little like that.” And when asked what he learned from the ordeal, he said, “I feel everyone focuses too much on their self-interest at the expense of their credibility.” Common Dreams
Chen, 40, is a legal activist who campaigned against forced abortions under China’s “one-child” policy. U.S. officials say Chen left the embassy of his own free will because he wanted to be reunited with his wife and children. They said he wanted to remain in China and never asked for asylum. Montreal Gazette
Chen also said he felt abandoned by the U.S., finding no embassy staff at the hospital to assure his protection. USA Today
In one interview after he left the embassy, Chen accused U.S. officials of passing along Chinese government threats to harm his wife. WSJ
The State Department has bungled and mismanaged the situation of Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng seeking asylum in the U.S., now having apparently abandoned him for a worse fate than if they never got involved. Antiwar.com
- Romney says Chen Guangcheng case marks a ‘day of shame’ for Obama (mcclatchydc.com)
- Opinion: U.S. naive about Chen deal? (cnn.com)
- China says blind dissident Chen can ask to study abroad (dailystar.com.lb)
- Should the U.S. Do More to Help Blind Chinese Activist Chen Guangcheng? (usnews.com)