Commentary Magazine


Topic: political asylum

Report: U.S. Pressured Chinese Dissident to Leave Embassy

Disgraceful beyond words:

Speaking by phone from his hospital room in Beijing on Wednesday night, a shaken Chen Guangcheng told the Associated Press that U.S. officials relayed the threat from the Chinese side.

Chen, who fled to the embassy six day ago, left under an agreement in which he would receive medical care, be reunited with his family and allowed to attend university in a safe place. He says he now fears for his safety and wants to leave.

A U.S. official denies knowledge of the threat, but says Chen was told his family would be sent back home if he stayed in the embassy.

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Disgraceful beyond words:

Speaking by phone from his hospital room in Beijing on Wednesday night, a shaken Chen Guangcheng told the Associated Press that U.S. officials relayed the threat from the Chinese side.

Chen, who fled to the embassy six day ago, left under an agreement in which he would receive medical care, be reunited with his family and allowed to attend university in a safe place. He says he now fears for his safety and wants to leave.

A U.S. official denies knowledge of the threat, but says Chen was told his family would be sent back home if he stayed in the embassy.

The news that blind activist lawyer Chen Guangcheng had left the U.S. embassy on his own volition came as a shock this morning. It now appears that it wasn’t the whole story. Why would Chen and his supporters have taken the risks they took in exchange for an “agreement” with the Chinese government that doesn’t guarantee his safety, or the safety of those who helped him escape?

As the Washington Free Beacon reported yesterday, this isn’t the first time the Obama administration has turned away a Chinese dissident seeking shelter at the U.S. embassy. And last time it happened, the story did not have a happy ending:

The office of Vice President Joe Biden overruled State and Justice Department officials in denying the political asylum request of a senior Chinese communist official last February over fears the high-level defection would upset the U.S. visit of China’s vice president, according to U.S. officials.

The defector, Wang Lijun, was turned away after 30 hours inside the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu and given over to China’s Ministry of State Security, the political police and intelligence service.

Wang has not been seen since Feb. 7 and remains under investigation. His attempt to flee China set off a major power struggle within the ruling Communist Party and led to the ouster of leftist Politburo member Bo Xilai and the arrest of his wife on murder charges.

If U.S. officials actually did pressure Chen into leaving the embassy, they just put him and his entire family in grave danger.

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