Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Chen Guangcheng Going to College or Back to School of Hard Knocks?

Howdy Comrades,
I feel that the Washington Post has the best coverage of the confusing developments for blind activist Chen Guangcheng
A Lawyer Says dissident feels pressure and fears for his
By Keith B. Richburg and Jia Lynn Yang, Updated: Wednesday, May 2, 2:14 PM
BEIJING  A lawyer for blind activist Chen Guangcheng on Wednesday questioned
a U.S.-brokered deal to guarantee Chen's safety in China and said that,
after leaving the protection of the U.S. Embassy here, the dissident may
have no choice but to go to the United States.
Chen traveled from the diplomatic compound to a Beijing hospital with U.S.
Ambassador Gary Locke on Wednesday afternoon, but soon found himself
surrounded by Chinese plainclothes police, with no American diplomats in
While U.S. officials insisted that they had received promises from the
Chinese government that assured the safety of Chen and his family, activists
and Chen's lawyer said Chen apparently either agreed to the deal under
duress or, after arriving at the hospital, began having second thoughts.
The Chinese government has made many promises on many things, but they never
keep their promise,
 said Chen's lawyer, Teng Biao. They like to punish people afterward.
A combative statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry heightened fears
among Chen's supporters that the deal could be unraveling. Fuming over the
U.S. acknowledgment that it had sheltered Chen, Foreign Ministry spokesman
Liu Weimin said: The U.S. method was interference in Chinese domestic
affairs, and this is totally unacceptable to China. According to the
state-run news agency Xinhua, Liu added: 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
happen again.
The tough statement late Wednesday afternoon gave the first hint of a
problem with the deal. The call for a U.S. apology was widely carried by
China's state media outlets.
Activists who spoke with Chen said he had been told that his wife and
children, who had been brought to the capital to be reunited with him, would
be sent back to Shandong province and could be beaten to death if he did not
exit the U.S. diplomatic compound.
Zeng Jinyan, a blogger and activist married to Chen's friend Hu Jia, said on
her Twitter account that Chen always insisted on staying in China, and that
U.S. diplomats at the embassy asked Chen repeatedly and respected his will.
She said Chen's wife, Yua Weijing, said she was the one who persuaded Chen
to leave the embassy to meet her and the children. On the phone tonight,
Chen Guangcheng told me for the first time that his whole family wanted to
leave, Zeng wrote.
Chen fled months of de facto house arrest last month and sought refuge for
six days at the U.S. Embassy. American officials said Wednesday that they
accepted him at the embassy on humanitarian grounds. As part of the deal
reached with Chinese officials in four days of marathon negotiations, they
said, the Chinese government agreed to allow Chen and his family to move
away from their village and pledged to investigate why authorities in the
village allowed armed thugs in plain clothes to confine Chen in his house
and prevent others from seeing him.
U.S. officials released a photograph showing a smiling Chen with Locke and
insisted that Chen left the embassy of his own volition. U.S. officials said
they would investigate any threats made to Chen that occurred at the
I was there, assistant secretary Kurt Campbell said in a statement. Chen
made the decision to leave the Embassy after he knew his family was safe and
at the hospital waiting for him, and after twice being asked by Ambassador
Locke if he was ready to go. He said, Zou,  let's go. We were all there as
witnesses to his decision, and he hugged and thanked us all.
The State Department sharply denied claims that embassy officials or
diplomats had told Chen that the Chinese government was threatening his wife
or children.
At no time did any U.S. official speak to Chen about physical or legal
threats to his wife and children, said State Department spokeswoman Victoria
Nuland. Nor did Chinese officials make any such threats to us.
Nuland said that U.S. officials understood that if Chen stayed in the
embassy, Chinese officials would bring the family back to Shangdong and they
would lose their ability to negotiate for a reunion. She added that at no
point did Chen request political asylum.
At every opportunity, he expressed his desire to stay in China, reunify with
his family, continue his education and work for reform in his country, said
Nuland. All our diplomacy was directed at putting him in the best possible
position to achieve his objectives.
It is unclear whether U.S. officials actually saw Chen reunite with his
family. Senior officials earlier on Wednesday went into great detail about
the car trip from the embassy to the hospital but did not convey what
happened after they arrived, suggesting that they may have left soon after
dropping off Chen.
The fact that Chen was told his family would be sent back to Shandong if he
did not leave the embassy appeared to undermine the U.S. account earlier
that he left for the hospital fully of his own accord. Accounts from fellow
activists suggest that he was worried about the repercussions for his family
if he remained at the embassy.
Nuland said Chen's family was brought to Beijing with the understanding that
this was what Chen wanted. Having him remain at the embassy, she said, would
be returning to the status quo.
As activists fears over Chen's fate mounted, they expressed increasing alarm
fueled by a series of Twitter updates  that what initially seemed like a
human rights victory for the Obama administration was spiraling quickly into
a worst-case scenario.
Chen was no longer under American protection, they noted, and it was not
clear whether he had left on his own free will or under coercion. While U.S.
officials said they had been promised access to Chen in the hospital,
Britain's Channel 4 news quoted a conversation with Chen in which he seemed
confused and upset that no U.S. diplomats were around.
Nobody from the [U.S.] embassy is here. I don't understand why. They
promised to be here, Channel 4 quoted Chen as saying.
Teng, the lawyer, told The Washington Post that he spoke with Chen several
times during the evening. He felt his safety is threatened. He feels
pressure now, Teng said. In fact, from his language, I can tell that the
decision to leave the is embassy was not 100 percent his idea.
In the meantime, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury
Secretary Timothy F. Geithner were in Beijing, preparing for a high-level
summit between the two countries on trade and security issues.
I hope the U.S. can do more to protect Chen, Teng said. But the Obama
administration didn't do a good job on China's human rights in the past, so
I'm worried that Chen's case will not be fully presented at the dialogue.
Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based senior Asia researcher for Human Rights
Watch, said: I'm somewhat surprised by the U.S. government's willingness to
accept the Chinese government's assurances or even to get Hillary Clinton to
work for Chen's safety in the long term. It seems they've taken a huge risk
with this.
Some human rights activists briefed by U.S. officials said Chen may have
felt threatened only after arriving at the hospital.
here's the situation before he left [the embassy], and the situation after,
said one activist, who asked to speak anonymously because he was involved in
an off-the-record conversation with three U.S. officials  Michael Posner,
the assistant secretary of state for human rights; Harold Koh, the State
Department legal adviser; and Samantha Power, from the National Security
Frank Jannuzi of Amnesty International said he also was briefed by Posner
and Koh, who he said told him that Chen was adamant from day one that he
wanted to remain in China. While there is no such thing as a perfect
guarantee, Jannuzi said the government officials told him, the Chinese made
unusually concrete assurances, and the U.S. Embassy was determined to
monitor Chen's well-being.
At the same time, leading Chinese dissidents were deeply skeptical. Bob Fu,
president of the U.S.-based advocacy group ChinaAid, said he has not been
able to reach Chen since he left the embassy and considers him missing.
Fu said he had received alarming reports by phone from friends in Beijing
that sharply contradicted the official U.S. version of the negotiations with
Chen and the circumstances under which he agreed to leave the U.S. Embassy.
He said friends of Chen who saw him briefly after he left the U.S. compound
said he had done so reluctantly and that Chinese authorities had told him if
he did not accept the deal, he would never see his wife and two children
State Department officials, in their conference call with rights groups,
described four days of intense, round-the-clock negotiations inside the
embassy with Chen and Chinese officials.
According to Fu and others who were part of the call, the officials said
Chen made it clear he wanted to remain in China. They said the Chinese
finally agreed to allow him to study at a university and live as a free man,
as he requested. But they also said it was up to rights groups and the
international community, not just the U.S. government, to make sure China
lives up to those commitments.
Fu described the negotiations as a hasty effort by the United States to save
the big items in the imminent bilateral talks. Fu speculated that Chen had
been pressured by both sides to clear the cloud before the beautiful banquet
that Clinton, Geithner and their Chinese counterparts would attend.
But the Chinese are not serious or sincere, he said. They see Chen as a
troublemaker. How can we trust a government that has beaten and imprisoned
him and mistreated his family for so long?
Fu said friends who spoke to Chen?s wife Wednesday said she described
hundreds of ?thugs with big sticks? waiting at their village compound.
Chen sought refuge at the embassy last Thursday. He was using a crutch,
because of an injury to his foot that he sustained when he fell over a wall
during his escape. On humanitarian grounds, we assisted Mr. Chen, a State
Department official said.
At Chaoyang Hospital, Chen was apparently taken to the VIP clinic. The area
was blocked off from reporters by hospital security guards and plainclothes
Clinton, who spoke by phone with Chen in what U.S. officials described as an
emotional conversation, said in a statement that she was 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.
Mr. Chen has a number of understandings with the Chinese government about
his future.... Making these commitments a reality is the next crucial task,
Clinton's statement said. 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.
Chen's case had presented the United States with a thorny diplomatic
dilemma. Chen wanted to remain in China to fight for people's rights,
friends said. But with security officials rounding up the activists who
helped Chen escape and who sheltered him, U.S. diplomats risked seeing Chen
arrested if he left the embassy without some formal guarantees for his
The American officials said Chinese authorities agreed to investigate the
extralegal activities of the local authorities in Chen's hometown, who have
allowed armed men to effectively confine Chen to his farmhouse in Shandong
province for 19 months, preventing celebrities, journalists and others who
tried to visit him from entering.
Senior officials said they became extremely close with Chen during the
negotiations  often holding his hand when they spoke. One official called
the talks with Chinese officials as intense but collaborative.
Officials said U.S. diplomats will take a continuing interest in the case of
Mr. Chen and his family, and would be checking on him in regular intervals
to confirm that the Chinese government's commitments to Chen are carried
Fu, of ChinaAid, said he was concerned that the U.S. government has
abandoned Chen and that the Chinese government is using his family as a
Chen is not charged with any crime. In a video appeal he made to Chinese
Premier Wen Jiabao after escaping house arrest, he asked that the local
authorities who kept him imprisoned be investigated and charged.
Locke, the U.S. ambassador, spoke to The Washington Post via telephone at
about 3:20 p.m. local time to say he was in a van with Chen, stuck in
traffic but en route to the hospital. Locke then handed the phone to Chen,
who introduced himself: This is Chen Guangcheng.
An embassy official said Chen specifically asked to speak to The Washington
Post, which first highlighted Chen's battle against forced abortions in
2005. Embassy officials said they scrambled among themselves to see who had
a cell phone that could be used to allow Chen to speak with his lawyer and
with Clinton, and to place the call to the Posts Beijing bureau.
At the end of the call with Clinton, who had arrived in Beijing earlier in
the day, Chen said: I want to kiss you, a State Department official said.
Liu, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said China was strongly dissatisfied.
The practice the U.S. has taken interfered in China's internal affairs,
which China will never accept.
The U.S. should rethink their policies and practices and take practical
actions to maintain the overall relations between China and the United
States, Liu said, according to Xinhua. China is a country under the rule of
law, and legitimate rights and interests of citizens are protected by
constitution and the law. Any citizen has an obligation to abide by the
constitution and the law.
A State Department official indicated that no apology would be forthcoming
from the United States over the episode. This was an extraordinary case
involving exceptional circumstances, he said, and we do not anticipate it
being repeated.
Jerome A. Cohen, an American lawyer long acquainted with Chen, said he spoke
to Chen on Monday and Tuesday to advise him about whether to accept the deal
for release in China. While Chen was very nervous on Monday, he had decided
by Tuesday to try to move ahead and create a new life for himself in
Beijing, said Cohen, a China legal expert, professor at New York University
law school and counsel to the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton &
On Monday, Cohen said, Chen was open to this idea of going out and studying
law and trying to make a career again outside Shandong province while saying
that it was very, very dangerous, given the chances of being detained again.
But Cohen said that Chen took heart in part from the example of the artist
Ai Weiwei, who has been able to maintain a degree of limited freedom large
enough to continue his artistic endeavors while speaking up on political
issues from time to time.
We went back and forth, said Cohen. He was worried about his family. No one
said anything about them being threatened with death.
He said Chen had pressed U.S. officials to have President Obama make a
statement about Chen to show U.S. commitment to seeing the deal with China
Cohen said he has not spoken to Chen Wednesday but speculated that Chen
seems to be subjected to various new pressures on arrival at the hospital
and that the inability of some friends to see him may also have fueled
Chen's concerns.
The situation seems to be evolving in a confused way, Cohen said, faulting
U.S. officials. The first mistake was they couldnt leave or didnt leave
anybody in the hospital with him. Maybe he gets a report from his wife about
threats, and his fears overcome him. This gets us off to a bad start on what
was a daring deal.
Staff writers Pamela Constable in Midland, Texas, and Steven Mufson in
Washington contributed to this report.
 The Washington Post Company
I believe the Standing Committee of the CPC Polit Bureau is fighting among themselves.  This does not bode well for Chen Guangcheng who has become a pawn in this internal struggle for power.  I also fault United States diplomats for allowing economic benefits to cloud their judgment concerning how the CPC will abide by any promises made to Chen Guangcheng.
Chairman Mal 


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