Chen: From 'Purported Diplomatic Triumph' to 'Diplomatic Fiasco'
This morning, U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke gave a lengthy accounting of the Embassy's version of events as they tried to broker a deal that would see Chen released back into China. Locke said Chen didn't agree to the proposals until they said his family would be brought from Shangdong Province to Beijing.
"I can tell you unequivocally that he was never pressured to leave, he was excited and eager about leaving when he made his decision, announced it," Locke told reporters. "…And he was fully aware of and talked about what might happen to his family if he stayed in the Embassy and they stayed in the village in Shangdong Province."
Chen told a CNN correspondent that he left the embassy only because U.S. officials were encouraging him to do so.
"At the time, I didn't have a lot of information," he said. "I wasn't allowed to call my friends from inside the embassy. I couldn't keep up with news, so I didn't know a lot of things that were happening."
He said he was told by contacts after reaching the Beijing hospital that if he hadn't left the embassy, his wife, Yuan Weijing, would be sent back to their village "and people there would beat her."
Chen said his wife told him that after his escape, "She was tied to a chair by police for two days. Then they carried thick sticks to our house, threatening to beat her to death. Now they have moved into the house. They eat at our table and use our stuff."
Fu confirmed at today's hearing that Yuan was told that if her husband did not walk out of the embassy, Chinese authorities would kill her.
"If we stay here or get sent back to Shandong, our lives would be at stake," Yuan told CNN. "Under such circumstances, I hope the U.S. government will protect us and help us leave China based on its values of protecting human rights."
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) will introduce a resolution next week, when the Senate returns from its weeklong break, in support of Chen.
“If America does not speak up for Mr. Chen who will? If his cause is not just and worthy of support, whose is?" Graham, who also plans to lodge objections with the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said Wednesday afternoon. "The Obama Administration should not let this moment pass. The Chinese government should be put on notice this case will have an impact on future relations between our two nations. We have leverage to use, but we need the will to do so."
In light of the new development today, Graham's follow-up statement was short and sweet: “If Chen Guangcheng and his family seek political asylum in the United States, the Obama Administration should grant it immediately.”
“The United States has always been a refuge for oppressed people around the world, and Chen Guangcheng’s case is an opportunity to remain true to this proud quality," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). "When repressive governments abuse human rights, we have a responsibility to condemn them. When the repressed turn to us for refuge, we have an obligation to offer America’s protection."
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) urged the White House to follow through on its commitment to ensure Chen's safety.
“It should have been obvious to U.S. officials all along that there is no way to guarantee Mr. Chen’s safety so long as he is within reach of the Chinese police state," she said. "The U.S. should not have given in to Chinese pressure for Chen to be taken out of the safety of the U.S. embassy."
Smith said he intends to call another hearing next week, summoning Obama administration officials to "get some answers."
"This should have been the topic, not a topic, at the dialogue," Smith said of Clinton and Geithner's summit with the PRC. "Chen is a hero. This commission will stay focused on him."
"You wonder if there were other forces at work," Wolf said. "Had word come down from on high to resolve the Chen situation no matter what prior to the arrival of secretaries Clinton and Geithner?"
Wolf vowed "when the dust settles" to request all cable traffic, classified or otherwise, relating conversations on the Chen negotiations in the State Department and with the White House.
"The Obama administration has a moral -- a high moral -- obligation to protect Chen and his family, and to do anything less would be scandalous," Wolf said. "America missed an opportunity in Tiananmen. Will this administration, too, fail to seize a historic moment? The reverberations of such failure are nearly impossible to calculate. The world is watching, both dictators and dissidents."