Chen Guangcheng is a 40-year-old Chinese human-rights lawyer, and a formidable man despite his blindness. The Chinese government is so terrified of him that they illegally kept him under house arrest for the past four years. A week ago he escaped, with the assistance of international human rights organizations, and found his way to the American embassy in Beijing, where he was given asylum.
President Obama pointedly refused to comment upon Chen’s situation, saying in a Monday press conference, “Obviously I’m aware of the press reports on the situation in China, but I’m not going to make a statement on the issue.”
“What I would like to emphasize is that every time we meet with China, the issue of human rights comes up,” the President continued. The rest of the Administration, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, echoed this vague expression of general concern about human rights. Important talks with China are scheduled to begin later this week.
China, meanwhile, very specifically insisted upon Chen’s return, going so far as to demand an apology from the U.S. government for harboring the dissident. As reported by MSNBC:
"It must be pointed out that the United States Embassy took the Chinese citizen Chen Guangcheng into the embassy in an irregular manner, and China expresses its strong dissatisfaction over this," ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in a statement carried by China's Xinhua news service.
"The U.S. method was interference in Chinese domestic affairs, and this is totally unacceptable to China. China demands that the United States apologize over this, thoroughly investigate this incident, punish those who are responsible, and give assurances that such incidents will not recur," the statement said.
Chen is a man of astonishing courage and commitment, who did not wish to leave China until his work there was completed. His supporters, however, felt they had convinced him to accept exile to the United States, because his safety in China could not be assured.
It therefore came as something of a surprise when Chen left the U.S. embassy and handed himself back to the Chinese government, checking into a Beijing hospital for the treatment of injuries he sustained during his escape. American officials initially stated this was Chen’s freely chosen path, after he received assurances of safety from the Chinese government… but then a different, and much darker, story began to emerge.
Fox News reports Chen “now claims Chinese officials threatened to kill his wife if he did not leave the American Embassy where he had sought sanctuary,” and furthermore implicates U.S. officials in relaying these brutal threats. He also said American officials were supposed to accompany him to the Beijing hospital, but no one stayed behind after he was deposited there, and now he wants to flee the country with his family… an option that is clearly no longer on the table.
Embassy officials dispute Chen’s story, and say they only relayed the Chinese government’s promise to move his family back to their home province, where he was long held under arrest, rather than any direct threats of violence.
Chen’s friends and international allies vigorously support his version of events, with his wife saying “what the media reported is wrong,” and calling the deal to return her husband to Chinese custody “shameful.” She also says a message widely reported as Chen’s desire to “kiss” Hillary Clinton, presumably in gratitude for her assistance, was actually a demand to see her before China took him back. He was not allowed to communicate with Clinton, or Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) of the House Foreign Affairs committee, who has been one of Chen’s strongest advocates in the American government.
Secretary of State Clinton sees herself walking away a winner, after issuing the following statement:
"I am pleased that we were able to facilitate Chen Guangcheng's stay and departure from the U.S. 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.
"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."
Hopefully those “misunderstandings” between Chen and his government will be smoothly ironed out.
Left unmentioned in most media accounts is the precise nature of Chen’s brief against the overlords of Beijing. He’s a pro-life activist, speaking out against the horrors of China’s one-child forced abortion policy. As LifeNews noted earlier this week, there have been thousand-word mainstream media articles about Chen that didn’t mention abortion at all, while CNN actually described him as an opponent of “alleged forced abortions.” He’s almost invariably described as a “human rights activist” or “legal activist,” without any further information about the particular human right that energizes him.
Among other terrors, Chen’s translated field report describes, in great detail, women suffering forced abortions and sterilization seven and nine months into pregnancy, the savage beating of elderly dissidents, Family Planning Officials forcing an old woman and her brother to beat each other up, and mass punishment for the extended families of One Child Policy “violators.”
How about it, President Obama? Is it time for another “gutsy call?” Do you have anything to say about this “War on Women?” Could you folks in the media at least do Chen Guangcheng the courtesy of telling us exactly why the Chinese government wants him out of the way? How can we properly honor this man’s courage unless we know what he’s fighting against?