I’ve known Chen Guangcheng for more than a decade—he’s been through intimidation, beatings, jail, and extralegal house arrest—but through it all I never sensed he was scared. Now he’s scared. Chen, whose case has escalated into a bilateral crisis that threatens to dominate Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Beijing this week, was weeping as he talked to me over the phone from his hospital bed.Implied threat:
Chen says he now wants to leave China as soon as possible: “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.”
When U.S. officials escorted him out of the U.S. embassy shortly after 3 p.m. Wednesday, Chen thought he’d extracted a promise that at least one of them would stay with him at the hospital, he said. “Many Americans were with me while I checked into the hospital and doctors examined me. Lots of them,” he told me from his hospital bed, where he’s being treated for broken bones in one foot, an injury sustained when he fell after climbing a wall during his daring escape from house arrest late last month. “But when I was brought to the hospital room, they all left. I don’t know where they went.” The ordeal was all the more bewildering because Chen is blind and was hurt during his escape; he needs crutches or a wheelchair to move around.
The hours ticked by, and Chen became more and more agitated. Even though he’d originally told friends and embassy officials that he wished to remain in China, now he wanted to leave. “I hope to seek medical treatment in the U.S. with my family, and then I want to rest,” he said. “As for the future, we’ll deal with that in the future.” At the hospital, Chen’s fears mounted as his wife told him she’d been tied to a chair, beaten, and interrogated by Chinese guards after they learned he had entered the U.S. embassy in Beijing last Friday.
As dinnertime came and went, he and his wife and two young children, who had traveled to Beijing, had nothing to eat. Their 6-year-old daughter began crying from the hunger pangs. “I kept asking the hospital personnel for some food, but it never came. I asked many times.” Finally, around 9 p.m., some food was sent in after friends contacted American officials for help. But Chen says his numerous attempts to reach the U.S. embassy directly during those dark hours failed: “I tried to phone the embassy three or four times last night, but nobody answered.” As of Thursday at 8:30 a.m. Beijing time, he said he has had no contact with American officials since after he entered his hospital room.
At the embassy, Chen said he came under tremendous pressure from American officials—“not those from the embassy but others “—to leave the diplomatic facility as quickly as possible. From the very beginning, he said, the assumption was that he would stay in China. “I had no information, I got no phone calls from friends, I was isolated,” he told me, his voice trembling. “Then I heard about the threat that my wife would be sent back home to Shandong if I didn’t leave the embassy. So I left.”
He told me there was no explicit threat that she would be submitted to physical violence, “but nobody had to say it, I know what we’ve experienced all these years back in Shandong. Our home was surrounded by guards, lots of guards. Our friends weren’t allowed to visit. If we tried to go out we’d be beaten, often with clubs.” Security personnel had even escorted his young daughter to and from school; Chen and his wife hadn’t seen their son for two years before their reunion at the hospital.
Early in the day, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland issued a statement denying reports that the U.S. conveyed threats to Chen about his wife while he was at the embassy. "U.S. interlocutors did make clear that if Chen elected to stay in the embassy, Chinese officials had indicated to us that his family would be returned to Shandong, and they would lose their opportunity to negotiate for reunification," Nuland also said. [. . .]Read the whole thing.
[Bob] Fu had spoken by phone with Chen shortly before I had. “He was very heavy-hearted,” Fu said. “He was crying when we spoke. He said he was under enormous pressure to leave the embassy. Some people almost made him feel he was being a huge burden to the U.S.” Chen decided to leave, Fu confirmed, because he was told “he would have no chance of reunification with his wife and children if he didn’t. The choice presented to him was walk out—or stay inside and lose his wife and kids. Chen had no choice but to go.”
See also this CNN interview with Chen and his wife and Lifenews's report on the debacle. How it will play out is anyone's guess but prayers are in order if you're so inclined.
Also see Jonathan Tobin: Hillary Shouldn't Leave Chen Behind
The problem here is not just the fact that the world knows Chen, who escaped from house arrest and courageously made his way to the U.S. Embassy, is in grave danger now that he is back under the control of the regime. It’s that by persuading him to leave their protection, American officials have invested the honor and good name of the United States in the outcome of this incident. Clinton simply cannot let this go as just one more regrettable but unavoidable instance of kowtowing to the Chinese because prioritizing human rights interferes with other pressing business America must conduct with Beijing.Read the rest.
Many thanks to Michelle Malkin for the link.
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