Blind Activist Who Escaped from House Arrest Wants to Leave China

The saga of Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese activist and lawyer who has captured the world’s attention since he showed up at the US embassy in Beijing last month, continues. The latest news is that Guangcheng, who escaped from house arrest, wants to come to the US now and leave China behind.

“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,” Guangcheng told the Daily Beast.

Guangcheng’s hope contradicts what US officials originally said: that the rights activist, through negotiations with China that were brokered by the US, had agreed to be released to a hospital and eventually to a home in Beijing. The deal reportedly guaranteed Guangcheng’s safety, and the Chinese government vowed to “investigate why authorities” in his village “allowed armed thugs in plainclothes to confine the activist and prevent others from seeing him,” according to the Washington Post. Now, it looks the deal is unraveling, in a blow to the Obama administration.

The activist wants to take his family to the US because they have been threatened by the Chinese government, he said.

Guangcheng is a well-known dissident who works against China’s policy of forced sterilization. He has been repeatedly arrested by Chinese authorities.

Guangcheng’s pleas to be taken to the US come at an awkward time for the Obama administration. As the Washington Post notes, “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner...arrived in Beijing on Wednesday with an entourage of diplomatic and trade officials intent on smoothing relations and increasing economic and cultural ties.”

Chinese dissidents have criticized the Obama administration for their handling of this case. “The Chinese government knew the Americans were soft from the very beginning,” Wei Jingsheng, a Chinese democracy activist, told the Los Angeles Times. “They’re more concerned about economic interests than about human rights.”

The case has also become fodder for the presidential campaign. Mitt Romney, who has taken a decidedly hawkish line on China, criticized the administration’s handling of the issue today.

AlterNet / By Alex Kane

Posted at May 3, 2012, 10:06am

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