Human rights activists Bob Fu and Reggie Littlejohn will discuss recent developments in the Chen Guangcheng case at a press conference today at The Heritage Foundation.
They do so at the height of tension over the case of Chinese dissident Chen Gaungcheng, who, after leaving the safety of the U.S. embassy in Beijing (potentially under pressure), has reconsidered remaining in China and now adamantly wishes to leave for the U.S. with his family.
He won’t be able to unless China chooses to respect his right to do so. The world is looking with interest to see whether the U.S. will go to bat to persuade China to allow him this.
Having spoken with Chen, Fu and Littlejohn report that he felt pressured to leave embassy protection and was made by some to feel a burden to the U.S. Further, they say he left for fear that something would happen to his wife if he did not. If true, this would be both inhumane and a reflection of bad negotiating.
The U.S. government says that it was necessary for him to seek medical treatment for injuries sustained in his escape and that the deal worked out with the Chinese government gave assurance that Chen and his family would not be harmed.
But apparently Chen’s confidence in the agreement quickly eroded upon leaving the sanctuary of the embassy as one by one the Americans slipped out his hospital door until, finally, his lifeline was gone and he was alone with his wife, children, and the stories about how she had been beaten by guards upon his escape from house arrest.
According to Melinda Liu in Beijing, Chen now says that his “fervent hope is that it would be possible for me and my family to leave for the U.S. on Hillary Clinton’s plane.”
Meanwhile, activists have been unable to contact fellow dissident He “Pearl” Peirong, who assisted Chen in reaching the safety of the U.S. embassy in Beijing. They worry that she and others in their network have now been detained by the government because of help to, and association with, Chen.
Fu, himself a former Tiananmen Square student leader, describes the Chen Gaungcheng affair as a watershed moment for U.S. credibility in the defense of freedom and rule of law.
Chen fled to the U.S. embassy because, as Littlejohn has said, it is perceived by many to be the one safe place in all of China where individuals who find themselves on the wrong side of the government (the Party) might expect to receive refuge.
But that perception is increasingly on shaky ground.
Congressman Frank Wolf (R–VA) reminds us in his Foreign Policy piece:
During a visit to Asia early in her tenure as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton famously said that U.S .concern with human rights issues in China “can’t interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis, and the security crisis.”
It is likely that this prioritization has not been forgotten by China’s leadership.
Before Chen’s announced desire to flee China, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quoted as saying that her country had handled the case “in a way reflecting his choices and American values”.
Regarding Chen’s choice: After the light of day hit the deal made with the Chinese, Chen’s choice sounds clear: He’d like to take the first plane out of Beijing.
And what of those American values?
Will the Administration prove itself interested in doing the legwork behind the scenes to stand up for individual liberty? What of Chen’s friend He Peirong and the others who have disappeared this past week? Will the Administration insist upon a verifiable accounting of their location and well-being?
Will the Administration place a high value upon a tenacious promotion of freedom?
We’ll have to see.