Chen Guangcheng, who had been holed up in the U.S. embassy in Beijing for six days, has left U.S. protection amid rumors of a deal struck between the two countries. Mr. Chen suggested that U.S. officials stated that Chinese authorities would have beaten his wife to death if he did not return to Chinese soil. The U.S. State Department denies such claims.
“At no point during his time in the embassy did Chen ever request political asylum in the U.S.,” said Victoria Nuland, spokesperson for the department.
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seemed to echo these comments in a statement by saying, “Mr. Chen has a number of understandings with the Chinese government about his future, including the opportunity to pursue higher education in a safe environment.”
While the United States seems to be speaking from the position of reconciliation and agreement on the issue, the Chinese government continues to be unimpressed with the whole series of events. Official Xinhua news reports claim that the Foreign Ministry has demanded a formal apology from the Secretary of State over the incident, stating, “What the U.S. side has done has interfered in the domestic affairs of China, and the Chinese side will never accept it.” While it seems that it has been requested, at this point, no apology has been forthcoming from Ms. Clinton.
Human rights activists remain concerned about the fate of Mr. Chen, who is blind, and they insist he will be open to further persecution from the State. Chen is under close scrutiny from Chinese government officials after fighting for handicapped rights and against forced sterilizations under China’s one-child policy. He was sentenced to four years in prison in 2006. A senior researcher with Human Rights Watch claimed that Chen and his family “remain at high risk of reprisals from rogue government officials and security forces.”
The arrangement between the governments intends to resolve a troubling and potentially explosive diplomatic issue ahead of discussions between both Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and their Chinese counterparts in Beijing.