Moral Low Ground


Blind Chinese Activist Chen Guangchang “Very Dissapointed” in US; Says American Embassy Lied & Manipulated Him to Leave

Weighed against US-China relations and a host of other political considerations both foreign and domestic, Chen Guangcheng didn’t stand a chance. The blind activist, who daringly escaped house arrest and sought refuge in the American Embassy in Beijing, has left his sanctuary and returned to his family. They are now at the mercy of Chinese authorities.

Why would he do such a thing?

To hear Chen tell it, he was encouraged to leave by US officials who made promises they didn’t keep. Chen told CNN that he is “very disappointed” with the United States, especially President Barack Obama, and that he believes the US manipulated him. He accused the Embassy of cutting off his outside communications and encouraging him to leave rather than seek asylum. He called Embassy officials liars.

“The Embassy kept lobbying me to leave and promised to have people stay with me in the hospital. But this afternoon as soon as I checked into the hospital room, I noticed they were all gone,” he said. “I’m very disappointed at the U.S. government. … I don’t think [U.S. officials] protected human rights in this case.”

Chen said he had no future in China and that his rights are being “violated” by his country’s communist government, which promised to grant him freedom if he left the Embassy.

He said police treated his wife brutally while he was under house arrest and that that was a factor in coercing his departure from the Embassy.

“[My wife] was tied to a chair by police for two days. Then they carried sticks to our home, threatening to beat her to death,” he said.

Chen also claimed that police told his wife she would be returned home to Shandong province and beaten if he did not leave the US Embassy.

Chen begged the United States to help him and his family leave China.

“I want them to protect human rights through concrete actions. We are in danger. If you can talk to Hillary [Clinton], I hope she can help my whole family leave China,” he said. “I would like to say to [President Obama]: Please do everything you can to get our whole family out.”

But in a chilling statement, Secretary Clinton said,  “I am pleased that we were able to facilitate Chen Guangcheng’s stay and departure from the US Embassy in a way that reflected his choices and our values. I was glad to have the chance to speak with him today and to congratulate him on being reunited with his wife and children.”

It looks like Chen and his family are on their own. The dissident, who landed in hot water after he took a stand against forced abortions and forced sterilizations, can’t compete against US interests and the delicate diplomatic dance between Washington and Beijing. The timing of the Chen issue is also precarious; American and Chinese officials sat down today to begin their annual bilateral summit and Washington needs Beijing’s help on a host of pressing international issues ranging from North Korea to Iran and Syria. Obama’s reelection could depend on US economic recovery; Chinese government policies could influence that for better or worse.

By encouraging– even manipulating– Chen to leave the US Embassy (if what he says is true), the Americans may have averted a potentially explosive situation. In doing so, Washington has tacitly acknowledged the cold facts about the shifting balance of geopolitical power away from the US and toward China.

US officials, for their part, have denied Chen’s allegations. Unnamed US diplomats told Time that Embassy officials offered Chen asylum, but that his family would be left behind in China, or that they would work a deal with Beijing in order to protect him from persecution and afford him some degree of freedom.

Time reports that US officials are concerned that by speaking with the media, Chen may have complicated American efforts to convince Chinese authorities to grant him more freedom. As The Atlantic‘s Max Fisher noted, “In expressing his desire to leave China, he is embarrassing the Chinese officials who are now his protectors; he’s also alienating US officials in the process.”

To put it another way, Washington seems to be telling Chen to shut up.

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