WASHINGTON, D.C., May 4, 2012, LifeSiteNews.com) – As the world watches the unfolding saga of Chinese human rights advocate Chen Guangchen’s daring escape and murky return to Chinese rule, a host of government officials – from U.S. Congressmen to Mitt Romney – have implored the Obama administration to safeguard Chen and his family.
Chen said State Department officials pressured him to leave the embassy and enter a Chinese hospital to have his broken foot treated. Officials admitted they conveyed a message to Chen that Chinese officials had tied his wife to a chair and threatened to beat her to death. Unless he returned, they threatened, his family would be returned to the site of ongoing abuse in Shandong province.
At an event in Virginia on Thursday, where he was endorsed by former rival Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney said “our administration, wittingly or unwittingly, communicated to Chen an implicit threat, to his family, and also probably sped up…his decision to leave the embassy.”
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The executive director of Human Rights Watch analyzed that the “U.S. says it didn’t convey threats to harm Chen’s family but did say they’d be returned to site of abuse. Same thing.”
A Congressional hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday, led by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), called the administration’s behavior “shameful.”
Romney said the State Department wanted Chen’s story out of the way, “because they wanted to move on to a series of discussions that [Treasury Secretary Timothy] Geithner and our secretary of State are planning on having with China.”
“It’s also apparent, according to these reports if they’re accurate, that our embassy failed to put in place the kind of verifiable measures that would assure the safety of Mr. Chen and his family,” he said, a claim echoed by Chen himself.
“If these reports are true, this is a dark day for freedom and it’s a day of shame for the Obama administration. We are a place of freedom, here and around the world, and we should stand up and defend freedom wherever it is under attack.”
Chen told CNN on Thursday U.S. officials were not taking his calls, nor had they accompanied him from the embassy to the hospital, as they promised. “The embassy kept lobbying me to leave and promised to have people stay with me in the hospital,” he said. “As soon as I checked into the hospital room, I noticed they were all gone.”
Officials countered by releasing a photo that purports to show the dissident “joyfully” leaving that sanctuary. U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke insisted, “We have been so supportive of him and his family for years. That’s why we took such extraordinary – almost ‘Mission Impossible’ – steps to bring him into the embassy, at great risk to our own personnel.”
Now in a Chinese hospital, Chen says, “I left the U.S. Embassy on my own free will.” Chen told The Washington Post, “I wasn’t tricked into leaving,” a claim that runs counter to many of his public statements just one day earlier. “If I didn’t want to leave, I could have stayed, and no one would have forced me to leave.”
He has said the Chinese have prevented U.S. personnel from visiting during his stay. The Miami Herald reported the entrance to Chen’s room at Chaoyang Hospital is guarded by “at least 10 plainclothes security guards.”
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An unnamed U.S. official told the media, “we do not yet have a full view of what he wants to do at this stage.” The State Department would support him in any of his decisions, the official stated.
Chen said on Thursday just because he left the U.S. Embassy “doesn’t mean I won’t come back. As a free person, I believe I am endowed with the right to leave China when I want to and come back anytime I want.”
An aide to Mitt Romney said the State Department “must redouble efforts to protect him.”