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Romney Weighs in on Chinese Dissident

Mitt Romney spoke out yesterday about the case of Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese dissident who escaped house arrest and is reportedly seeking asylum at the U.S. embassy in Beijing:

“My concern at this moment is for the safety of Chen Guangcheng and his family,” Romney said in a statement released by his campaign on Sunday. “My hope is that U.S. officials will take every measure to ensure that Chen and his family members are protected from further persecution.” …

Weighing in on Sunday, Romney said Chen’s escape “points to the broader issue of human rights in China.”

“Our country must play a strong role in urging reform in China and supporting those fighting for the freedoms we enjoy,” Romney said.

Neither the White House nor President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign has officially weighed in on the issue.

Romney is right to say that the U.S. needs to do more to pressure China on democratic reforms, but it’s probably best for the White House and Obama campaign to say as little as possible about this issue, at least until after Secretary Clinton’s meetings in Beijing this week. As Max wrote yesterday, there is no question as to what the administration should do in this case. For the sake of our principles and national interests, the U.S. has to provide shelter to Chen.

Coming on the heels of the Bo Xilai scandal, Chen’s escape is yet another massive public embarrassment that seems to reveal serious cracks in the Chinese government. Is it really possible that a blind dissident was able to not only escape house arrest, but also travel 500 miles to the U.S. embassy – days before a prescheduled meeting with top U.S. administration officials – without inside help? It certainly doesn’t seem likely. And that will no doubt make for some dicey meetings between U.S. and Chinese officials this week.