Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who escaped from house arrest in a village last week and was given refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for six days, is now worried about his family's future. He has told reporters that American diplomatic officials have essentially abandoned him and is now desperate, "My fervent hope is that it would be possible for me and my family to leave for the U.S. on Hillary Clinton’s plane."
Chen, who initially said he didn't want to leave China, was removed from the U.S. Embassy yesterday to go to the hospital (he has injuries sustained from his escape, which included climbing a wall). Chen told the Daily Beast, "Many Americans were with me while I checked into the hospital and doctors examined me. Lots of them... But when I was brought to the hospital room, they all left. I don’t know where they went." He also told the AP that U.S. officials said his family would be sent back to their village if he stays at the Embassy, adding, "at one point, the U.S. officials told him his wife would have been beaten to death." Also, to explain his apparent change in mind, Chen said, "At the time, I didn't have a lot of information. I wasn't allowed to call my friends from inside the embassy. I couldn't keep up with news, so I didn't know a lot of things that were happening."
The 40-year-old is a self-taught lawyer who has advocated for women and the poor, and has also fought the government against its strict one-child policy. (Also, here are 10 things about him.) U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke said of Chen, "I can tell you unequivocally that he was never pressured to leave. He was excited and eager about leaving." And a State Department spokesperson says that it seems like Chen and his family had a "change of heart."
Chen thinks the Chinese government is betraying an agreement with the U.S. to give him his freedom. He said to the Washington Post, "The U.S. Embassy helped me a lot. But I don’t think the Chinese side is obeying the agreement well." According to the NY Times:
Meanwhile, the administration’s handling of the Chen case drew a harsh attack from Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican candidate for president. Campaigning in Virginia, Mr. Romney accused the Obama administration of rushing to complete the deal before Mrs. Clinton arrived for the high level meetings and failing “to put in place the kind of verifiable measures that would assure the safety of Mr. Chen and his family."
“If these reports are true,” Mr. Romney said, “this is a dark day for freedom and it’s a day of shame for the Obama administration.”
...The American officials who negotiated with the Chinese Foreign Ministry to allow Mr. Chen to stay in China, said they consulted frequently with him about the plan to for him to stay in China, but they did not speak at length to his wife, an American official knowledgeable about the process said. In retrospect, that may have been a mistake, the official said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in China for economic meetings, but she said, "Mr. Chen has a number of understandings with the Chinese government about his future, including the opportunity to pursue higher education in a safe environment. Making these commitments a reality is the next crucial task. The United States government and the American people are committed to remaining engaged with Mr. Chen and his family in the days, weeks and years ahead."