One outspoken critic of China’s abysmal human rights policies, Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), criticized the Obama administration for not granting Chen asylum. “There are no safe places in China for dissidents,” said Smith. “Going to the hospital is no different from going to the police station.”
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said in a statement, “This event points to the broader issue of human rights in China. Any serious U.S. policy toward China must confront the facts of the Chinese government’s denial of political liberties, its one-child policy, and other violations of human rights.”
Bob Fu, who helped Chen escape house arrest and who heads the ChinaAid Association that assists dissidents in China, said simply, “The U.S. government has abandoned Chen” and that the Chinese government is “using his family as a hostage.”
And Paul Gregory, writing in Forbes, says the US should feel ashamed. “We have sacrificed a fundamental moral issue for commercial and political gain. We should have welcomed Chen in the embassy as we did Fang Lizhi and demanded that Chen’s wife and son be delivered to the safety of the U.S. Embassy, after which negotiations on Chen could begin.”
Indeed, it is not unprecedented for the US to shelter dissidents at our embassies in foreign countries. Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty, a leader of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising, took refuge in the US embassy in Budapest when Soviet tanks rolled in to crush the rebellion. He stayed for 15 years. He was eventually permitted to leave Hungary in 1971.
The unseemly rush to deliver Mr. Chen back into the hands of his oppressors was a product of politics, not diplomacy. President Obama can’t afford a foreign policy embarrassment in an election year and the Chinese were very angry that we allowed Chen sanctuary in the embassy. There’s no telling what the Chinese would have done if Chen was still under American protection once the talks started between the two governments.
The statement by the official Chinese news agency hints at how angry Beijing is at what it considers US meddling in its internal affairs. Liu Weimin, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, in comments reported by the state-run news agency Xinhua, called the U.S. activity “interference in Chinese domestic affairs, and this is totally unacceptable to China.” 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.”
Secretary Clinton spoke to Chen by phone immediately after he left the embassy for the hospital and welcomed the agreement with the Chinese, saying it “reflected his choices and our values.” At that time, as Reuters points out, “What initially appeared to be a foreign policy success for the Obama administration could quickly turn into a liability.”
Given the suspicion of many human rights activists have that the government could easily renege on the agreement with Chen, one wonders what sort of “values” to which Ms. Clinton was referring.
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