Chinese Dissident Released From U.S. Embassy, Pleads to Leave China

NEW YORK | Thursday, May 3rd, 2012 1:06am EDT

The Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng left American custody under disputed circumstances on Wednesday, and what briefly looked like a deft diplomatic achievement for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton turned into a potential debacle.

Chinese Dissident Released From U.S. Embassy Pleads to Leave China 01

U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke, right; and Legal Adviser of the U.S. Department of State Harold Koh, left; with Chen Guangcheng at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, on May 1, 2012. Photo: U.S. Department of State/Flickr

Chen Guangcheng, blind Chinese dissident, emerged yesterday from six days holed up inside the US embassy in Beijing after a dramatic escape from his home village in Shandong province, where he was being held under extra-legal house arrest, reports The Telegraph.

On Wedenesday Chen, a self-taught legal activist, left the embassy and is now under Chinese control in a Beijing hospital.

According to Reuters, Chen said on Thursday by telephone from hospital, where he was escorted by U.S. officials and was being treated for a broken foot, that he had changed his mind after speaking to his wife who spoke of recent threats made against his family.

“I feel very unsafe. My rights and safety cannot be assured here,” he said. His family, who were with him at the hospital, backed his decision to try to reach the United States, he added.

In the interview with the Daily Beast 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 I was inside the American embassy, I didn’t have my family, and so I didn’t understand some things. After I was able to meet them, my ideas changed,” Chen said.

He also said he had felt some pressure because he was told that Chinese officials had threatened to beat his wife to death if he remained under American protection, tells The New York Times.

“Many Americans were with me while I checked into the hospital and doctors examined me. Lots of them,” he Chen said. “But when I was brought to the hospital room, they all left. I don’t know where they went.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton found herself in the eye of the diplomatic storm on Thursday, turning up for the opening of annual bilateral talks in Beijing which have been overshadowed, but not derailed, by the Chen case.

Mrs. Clinton said after his departure that the Chinese government had given understandings about his future. “Making those commitments a reality is the next crucial task,” she said.

Mrs. Clinton also said 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.”

“I was glad to have the chance to speak with him today and to congratulate him on being reunited with his wife and children,” she said.

However, Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement^ “There are serious concerns over whether the Chinese government will honor commitments it made to the U.S. government to not persecute Chen and his family members.”

“Not only does the Chinese government have an appalling track record on human rights, but Chen himself has also already reported receiving threats to his family’s safety by government officials and fearing for his and their security,” she added.

Chinese President Hue Jintao made no mention of the Chen case in his remarks to the U.S.-China talks but stressed that the two nations needed trust.

“It is impossible for China and the United States to see eye-to-eye on every issue, but both sides must know how to respect each other,” he said.

Chen said that he came under tremendous pressure from American officials at the embassy — “not those from the embassy but others “—to leave the diplomatic facility as quickly as possible.

“[Chen’s current situation] totally contradicts the rosy picture” I got in a conference call I had with U.S. officials Wednesday morning. They summarized the situation, and it sounded like a beautiful, happy scene,” said Bob Fu, president of the U.S.-based ChinaAid Association.

“He was very heavy-hearted,” Fu, who had spoken with Chen by phone, 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.”

Fu confirmed that Chen had decided to leave, 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.”

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