Obama refuses comment as Chen Guangcheng’s fate hangs in the balance
BEIJING, April 30, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Although Chen Guangcheng only narrowly escaped the clutches of the Chinese government with his life last week, the future safety of the famous blind forced-abortion opponent, who reportedly remains at the U.S. Embassy where he took sanctuary last week, remains unclear as the Obama administration is forced into an ultimatum on China and its human rights abuses.
President Obama flatly refused to comment on Monday when asked about Chen’s fate.
“Obviously, I’m aware of the press reports on the situation in China, but I’m not going to make a statement on the issue,” the president said at a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko, according to Fox News.
After 19 months of house arrest, where he and his wife were subject to brutal beatings, 24-hour surveillance and other maltreatment, Chen managed to enter U.S. territory in the embassy in Beijing on April 22.
But now, only days before U.S. officials commence a strategic and economic dialogue in the Communist country’s capital on Thursday, it is less than clear that the Obama administration is willing to stand up for the embattled activist, with administration officials having so far having declined to state their intentions with regard to Chen.
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The Associated Press reported Sunday that Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell was rushed to Beijing ahead of the scheduled timetable. Neither Campbell nor Embassy officials would comment to media on the purpose of the visit, but AP notes both Chen’s escape and a possible arms deal with Taiwan had posed a possible threat to diplomatic relations.
The arrangement could highlight what human rights activists have criticized as the administration’s willingness to overlook China’s human rights abuses, particularly its coercive population control methods under the one-child policy. Days after Obama’s inauguration in 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assured Chinese officials that human rights concerns “can’t interfere” with other issues such as the economy and global warming. Last year, Vice President Joe Biden told an audience in China that he “fully understand[s]” and wouldn’t “second-guess” the one-child policy. He subsequently apologized for those remarks after they created an uproar.
Meanwhile, Chen has released a video in which he details the abuses against himself and his wife, and calls upon China’s Premier of the State Council Wen Jiaobo to ensure justice be brought against the perpetrators.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Congress’s top proponent for human rights in China, said that Chen’s appeal to Wen was “courageous” and a “reasonable demand that the Chinese government, supported by international community, especially the U.S., must meet.”
“The eyes of the world are on Premier Wen Jiaboa, the Chinese government and U.S. diplomatic leaders—Secretary Hilary Clinton; Assistant Secretary of East Asian Affairs Kurt Campbell; and Assistant Secretary for Human Rights Michael Posner—all of whom are in or are about to be in Beijing,” said Smith.
Other international leaders have also urged help for Chen: Lord Alton, Chairman of the British Parliament’s Cross-Party Working Group on Human Dignity, urged China to let Chen leave the country to access proper medical care for ailments and injuries from his imprisonment that reportedly seriously threaten his health.
“Chen Guangcheng and his family have a number of well-known medical issues that would reasonably justify a decision, on humanitarian grounds, to allow them to travel to the United States or Europe for medical treatment,” said Alton in a statement Monday.