Action Alert!

US diplomacy arranged a precarious future for Chen Guangcheng

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | May 02, 2012

When the Chinese human-rights activists Chen Guangcheng left the US embassy in Beijing, where he has sought refuge after a dramatic escape from house arrest, American officials assured the world that the Chinese government had promised that Chen and his family would be unharmed. But:

  • If the Beijing government made any promises, we haven’t seen them on paper. What we have seen is a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry denouncing the US for “interference in Chinese domestic affairs” and demanding an official apology.
  • There are now reports that Chen did not leave the US embassy voluntarily, but acted under duress, after Chinese officials threatened his family.
  • Chen left the US embassy, willingly or not, just as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived for diplomatic talks with Chinese government officials. Those talks—like all talks between China and the US these days—would center on the willingness of China to continue purchasing US government debt.

No doubt the US embassy wishes Chen the best. But were American diplomats willing to incur the wrath of Beijing by harboring a dissident? During the Cold War, Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty was harbored in the US embassy in Budapest for 15 years. But at the time, the US did not rely on Hungary to keep purchasing the bonds that float the national debt.

“The Obama administration regards the blind Chinese human rights activist as a speed bump on the Clinton-Geithner Road Show to China,” charges Steven Mosher, the head of the Population Research Institute. Is he too cynical? It’s possible. But if you’re confident that Beijing will not punish Chen Guangcheng and his family because of some vague promise to American diplomats, you’re not nearly cynical enough.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Defender - May. 02, 2012 6:59 PM ET USA

    I can think of a few different scenarios: Since China always attempts to control all (persons, religion, travel, etc), we'll never see Chen again (they can and do send people to prison w/o charge, etc, too) or there might be an arrangement to send Chen and his family out of the country for "medical care" somewhere else. As the U.S. has its hat in-hand, China holds all the aces. This administration has made a mockery of human rights, both domestically and now in foreign policy.