Chen: U.S. officials pressured me to leave Embassy
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BEIJING, CHINA, May 3, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Chen Guangcheng’s bid for freedom took a dramatic turn Thursday when the human rights activist directly pleaded with President Obama to bring him and his family home on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s plane, after saying he was pressured to leave the U.S. Embassy by American officials this week.
“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,” Chen told The Daily Beast‘s Melinda Liu, who said she spoke to Chen from his hospital bed in Beijing. Chen was being treated for broken bones in his foot after falling over a wall during his escape.
Clinton, who was present in Beijing on Wednesday and Thursday, said she had spoken with Chen and was pleased to facilitate his “stay and departure” in a way that “reflected his choices and our values.” Chen told Channel 4 that he had asked to see Clinton in person during his conversation with her.
Chen described how he was pressured by both American and Chinese officials to leave the Embassy to which the blind activist had barely managed to escape after 19 months of severe beatings, starvation, and imprisonment in his village home. He said Chinese officials had threatened his family.
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According to Liu, “Chen said he came under tremendous pressure from American officials—‘not those from the embassy but others’—to leave the diplomatic facility as quickly as possible.” He also said that it was a U.S. official who conveyed the threat of returning his wife to their home, still overrun by violent guards, if he did not comply.
Chen’s wife, whom he met at the hospital, told him she had been tied to a chair, beaten, and interrogated by Chinese guards following his escape.
“I had no information, I got no phone calls from friends, I was isolated,” said Chen, who was audibly distraught. “Then I heard about the threat that my wife would be sent back home to Shandong if I didn’t leave the embassy. So I left.”
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Wednesday claimed that it was untrue that the U.S. conveyed threats to Chen about his wife, but also said that “U.S. interlocutors did make clear that if Chen elected to stay in the embassy, Chinese officials had indicated to us that his family would be returned to Shandong, and they would lose their opportunity to negotiate for reunification.”
Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid and a top advocate for Chen in the U.S., said in The Daily Beast‘s report that he was frustrated that a conference call with U.S. officials apparently whitewashed Chen’s situation.
“They summarized the situation, and it sounded like a beautiful, happy scene,” which “totally contradicts” Chen’s actual situation, said Fu.
“They said they’d send some photos of Chen ‘joyfully’ leaving the embassy,” he said.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials insist that much of the conflict was due to miscommunication, including initial reports from U.S. officials of Chen telling Clinton “I want to kiss you” being corrected to his actual meaning, “I want to see you.”
U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke told reporters that Chen had insisted on leaving the embassy to see his wife, although he was ready to house Chen for “years,” according to The Washington Post. The Post also reports that U.S. officials spoke to Chen by phone twice on Thursday.
But Fu, who says he spoke to a crying Chen over the phone, confirmed reports that Chen feels the U.S. had pressured him to leave the embassy.
“He said he was under enormous pressure to leave the embassy. Some people almost made him feel he was being a huge burden to the U.S.,” he said.
Lu also reports that hospital staff refused to feed Chen, his wife and his two young children, only bringing food late at night after friends contacted American officials for help.
Chen had initially expressed his intention to stay in China, but now has repeatedly stated that his “biggest wish” is to flee with his family to the United States.
“Please try to contact the embassy to send someone over here. I need your help, I’m absolutely, absolutely ready to fly out on Hillary Clinton’s plane. Please tell the embassy what I’m saying, Meiyuan,” Chen pleaded to Lu, using her Chinese name.
“I don’t know why the Americans didn’t answer my phone calls.”
The Post characterized spiriting Chen out of China on Clinton’s plane as “extremely difficult and extraordinarily unusual” as Chen lacked a visa and because Clinton planned to stop in India and Bangladesh. Fu notes that getting Chen and his familiy out of China would require “a diplomat push” on the part of the Obama administration to obtain passports.
Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, a group deeply connected to Chen and his advocacy for forced-abortion victims in China, told LifeSiteNews.com that the situation had grown dire.
“Chen and his family are in danger,” Littlejohn told LSN in a brief e-mail. The human rights leader will be testifying before Congress this afternoon to plead on Chen’s behalf.
In public, Chinese officials had given assurances that the self-taught lawyer would be treated humanely and would be allowed to attend a university. Yet signs of Chinese enmity towards Chen are visible: a Channel 4 video report included footage of a Chinese man publicly holding an ostensibly pro-Chen sign before it was ripped out of his hands and the man whisked away by persons in uniform.
He Peirong, the young Chinese woman who spearheaded Chen’s escape into the U.S. Embassy late last month, vanished hours after news broke of the event. Friends still fear she is in the hands of the Communist Party, which has been known to torture or kill dissidents without trial.