TORONTO, Ontario, 31 October, 2012 ( – The leader of the international coalition to free blind activist Chen Guangcheng has slammed the U.S. State Department for having “botched” the negotiations following Chen’s dramatic escape from house arrest earlier this year.

Reggie Littlejohn said that from her perspective the State Department was “really resistant” to helping Chen reach safety.

“The State Department likes to say now that they played some kind of a heroic role,” said Littlejohn in an excusive video interview with “I would dispute that characterization of their actions.”

Littlejohn, founder and president of Women’s Rights without Frontiers, explained how Chen escaped from his high-security house prison through a “miraculous series of circumstances.” She said, however, that his reception when he arrived unexpectedly, and with a broken foot, at the U.S. embassy was nothing like the “hero’s welcome” that he should have received.

Chen Guangcheng was targeted by the Chinese Communist Party for defending Chinese women forced to abort their children under the country’s one-child policy. Chen spent over four years in prison, where he suffered brutal beatings. After he was released he spent 19 months under house arrest, during which he and his wife were subject to beatings, 24-hour surveillance, and other maltreatment. His daring escape and subsequent plight in the US Embassy last April caught the attention of the media around the world.

“He was there on US territory in the US Embassy. In the opinions of the Chinese people, Chen Guangcheng was safe in U.S. control,” Littlejohn said.


But Chen’s misfortune was that he had arrived at the US Embassy a week before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was to visit China to discuss economic issues.

“Suddenly, as May 2nd approached [the day of Hillary’s visit], Chen was getting pressure to leave the Embassy,” said Littlejohn.

Littlejohn said that the Embassy pressured Chen to enter a hospital under Chinese communist control by May 2, passing on threats from the Communist government that he and his family would face “terrible” consequences if he did not leave the embassy.

Human rights activists accused the Obama administration of trying to sweep Chen under the carpet prior to Clinton’s visit. Prior to this, the Obama Administration had made it clear that China’s human rights abuses would not deter the administration’s dealings with the country.

Steven Mosher, president of Population Research Institute, suggested that the Obama administration considered Chen to be a “spark” that could “start a prairie fire”.

Littlejohn called the situation that Chen faced — forced to flee from a hostile Communist government into the arms of an unsympathetic US State Department — a “debacle” and pointed out that “no one knew what was going to happen.”

Littlejohn said that the power of social media engine Twitter, where friends spread unfiltered updates on Chen’s real situation, was influential in Chen’s escape from China. She also said that Chen would not have escaped but for the efforts of Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Congress’s top proponent for human rights in China.

“The pressure was mounting. [The US State Department] saw that it was not going away but that it was getting more and more intense.”

After several nail-biting days in limbo in the Chinese hospital, Chen obtained permission to fly to the U.S. to study. He landed with his wife and two small children in Newark, New Jersey on May 19 2012.

See Video Interview here. Begin at minute 7:07 for details quoted in this story.