China Relents on Chinese Dissident

There has been a flurry of accusations that the Obama administration botched the case of blind Chinese dissident lawyer Chen Guangcheng when he was, for all practical purposes, “handed over” to the Chinese earlier this week without concrete assurances that he would not be prosecuted, persecuted, or worse.

Chen, who has protested China’s laws on forced abortions and sterilizations of women — part of its one-child-per-family policy — had spent a week at the US embassy after escaping from house arrest that lasted more than 18 months. He has been in a Chinese hospital since his departure from the U.S. embassy.

Republicans, including GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, were at the forefront of the criticism, saying that if reports that Chen had been persuaded by the U.S. to leave the embassy were true, it was “a day of shame for the Obama administration”.

Human rights activists and many Democrats, including this writer, were also disappointed.

Even senior American officials privately acknowledged missteps in the handling of the case.

The New York Times:

The United States failed to guarantee access to Mr. Chen at the hospital, [the officials] said, leaving him isolated and fearful that China would renege on its pledge not to harass him and to allow him to resume his legal studies.

Additionally, the Chen case threatened to impact the delicate, high-level US-China talks taking place in Beijing.

But today, according to the Times, the State Department announced that “China has agreed to accept an application by the dissident lawyer Chen Guangcheng to travel to the United States as a student.” The Times also says that this may point “to a quick resolution of an eight-day diplomatic crisis over human-rights issues that has deeply embarrassed the White House and threatened to further sour relations with Beijing.”

The BBC:

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement that Mr. Chen had been offered a fellowship from an American university – later identified as New York University (NYU).

She said Mr Chen could be accompanied by his wife and children, and that the US expected Beijing to process their application for travel “expeditiously”.

“The United States government would then give visa requests for him and his immediate family priority attention,” the statement added.

But don’t break out the champagne glasses yet.

The “road” between Beijing and New York University could be a long one for Chen and his family. A road that might be littered with the landmines of politics, failed diplomacy, intrigue, mistrust and the plain unpredictability of the Chinese government.

Even Secretary Clinton cautions, “there is more work to do, so we will stay engaged as this moves forward.”

But let’s hope for the best.

Read more here.

Image by www.shutterstock.com

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

7 Comments

  1. I’m glad Clinton is dealing with this and not some Romney appointee. Republican criticisms are partisan relflex (needless to say) and irresponsible at that.

  2. Maybe part of the snafu is that China is in transition to new leadership. Sex, murder, and video tapes are making this transition rocky. The US Embassy and Mr. Chen have been caught up in these difficulties.

    That the Romney campaign felt it necessary to let their heads explode over a delicate foreign negotiation, led even partisan Bill Kristol to chastise their fervor.

  3. I am not a fan (at all) of Bill Kristol, but for once he has said something sensible.

  4. It is hard dealing with the Chinese government, but even more so at times like this. Lower level officials are always afraid of making a mistake when the leadership at the top is unsettled.

  5. I am not a fan (at all) of Bill Kristol, but for once he has said something sensible

    It is easy to prove that the Kristol Ball is almost always wrong. Just take a random month of his predictions from say three years ago and list them. It’s to the point that the default position on anything he says is that he is wrong.

    As I read Kristol’s comments, He wasn’t admonishing Romney for criticizing the president’s handling of foreign affairs, he was warning Romney to shut up until he sees which way a fluid situation was going to go before deciding what to criticize the president for. See if you read the same thing into his comments.

    KRISTOL: I’m happy to be critical of the Obama administration as anyone is, but I think this is fast moving story. And if I were advising Governor Romney, I’d say you don’t need to get in the middle of this story. If this turns out badly, and it would be a terrible thing, it will turn out badly. People will know. … To inject yourself into the middle of this way with a fast moving target I think is foolish. [...]

    There is no need to butt into a fast moving story when the secretary of state is in Beijing with delicate negotiations and say it’s a day of shame for the Obama administration. Hillary Clinton is waking up right now. Let’s see if she can pull this off in the next 12 hours or so.

  6. You may be right. Now, I wonder why he should have to warn Romney about speaking before seeing what happens or before analyzing why it happened? Surely a businessman knows you don’t rock the boat in the middle of negotiations. Also, we’ve, unfortunately, lost the “politics stops at the water’s edge” ethos.

  7. @Merkin

    Thanks for the comment.

    I did read the same things you did in Kristol’s comments.

    Still, a thousand times better than his usual shoot first, ask questions later mode.

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