By Michael Ardaiolo
Hours after blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng supposedly left the US embassy for a Beijing hospital of his own volitions, he decided that the deal brokered between the Chinese and American delegations was unfit. His change of heart was probably due to the advice coming in from close friends and the quickly souring circumstances surrounding his family’s safety. Initial reports stated that he was pressured into the deal by the US embassy.
Thanks to the watchful eyes of the press (both macro and micro), this was thoroughly documented and spread. At first, it appeared that everyone in the world knew this information except for the US State Department, who left his bedside after possibly promising otherwise.
State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland then made it clear that after speaking with Chen twice on the phone and his wife once in person on Thursday, they are fully aware of his family’s desire to leave China.
US Ambassador to China Gary Locke briefed the press to refute some of the information circulating. He says,
“[Chen] made it very, very clear from the very, very beginning that he wanted to stay in China, that he wanted to be part of the struggle to improve the human rights within China, and to gain greater liberty and democracy for the people of China.”
Locke also goes on to deny that Chen was pressured to leave the embassy:
And so I can tell you unequivocally that he was never pressured to leave, he was excited and eager about leaving when he made his decision, announced it. He simply – while he was sitting there, we waited for him to make his decision. He also fully knew of what would be – of what staying in the Embassy would entail if he decided not to leave. And he was fully aware of and talked about what might happen to his family if he stayed in the Embassy and they stayed in the village in Shangdong Province.
The New York Times details Chen’s journey from his makeshift prison in Dongshigu village to Beijing. It reports that US diplomats only became involved after it was clear that Chen needed medical treatment for a leg injury he sustained while scaling the walls outside his house.
“By the time I saw him he was in so much pain from his injury he couldn’t even stand,” said Hu Jia, a dissident in Beijing who taunted the authorities by posting on the Internet photos of their meeting. “Our main goal was to get him to a safe place.”
It was decided that only the American Embassy could provide that kind of protection. Another friend first contacted the embassy, explaining that Mr. Chen had a serious foot injury and needed help, according to an American official involved in the discussions.
The facts revealed today point to malfeasance on the side of the Chinese leadership. A deal was reached but apparently reneged, or at least misunderstood, in some capacity. The opportunity for Hu Jintao’s administration to make a stance on shifting human rights ideals may have gone unrealized.
Malcolm Moore, the Beijing correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, is tweeting that “Kurt Campbell is back in negotiations with Chinese today.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is currently in Beijing. We will see in the near future if she grants Chen’s wish to join her on the flight home.