|An ugly day of american diplomacy |
May 2, 2012 by Benny Avni
The State Department painted it as an elegant way out of a ballooning crisis involving Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng — but by day’s end, it looked like a disgraceful performance by US diplomats.
Initial reports had Chen so pleased by the deal that he told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “I want to kiss you.”
The agreement Clinton negotiated with Beijing yesterday supposedly allowed Cheng to stay in China and get medical attention, with the authorities guaranteeing his future safety.
But things started unraveling just hours after the compromise was inked.
Did our diplomats push him out? Chen Guangcheng leaving the US embassy in Beijing yesterday.
First, while State claims Chen never wanted to leave China, the dissident said he and his family would rather leave. And it looks like he was all but forced out of the US embassy, where he’d sought asylum.
A quick recap: Chen, a blind man, is a fierce critic of Beijing’s “one child” policy; he’s led lawsuits about the forced abortions and sterilizations it has produced. That activism landed him in jail for seven years, followed by constant harassment of him, his family and allies.
A week ago, he escaped house arrest in Shandong, his home town, and made it to Beijing, where he found shelter at the US embassy — just as Clinton, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and other top US officials were headed to today’s annual US-China summit there.
Clinton landed in China yesterday, hoping to deal with extremely tough bilateral issues, starting with all that US debt held by Beijing. Compared to those, as Bogart’s Rick said in “Casablanca,” the troubles of one dissident “amount to a hill of beans.”
Would Beijing have called off the talks if we’d just let Chen stay in the embassy or granted him and his family asylum? We’ll never know: Clinton opted to seek a deal.
The State Department suggested that yesterday’s dramatic deal left all sides satisfied: Chen was escorted to a hospital by our ambassador in Beijing, Gary Locke, and reunited with his family. He thanked Clinton in a phone call.
Then Beijing — while not denying the deal — demanded a US apology, saying America had “interfered in the domestic affairs of China, and the Chinese side will never accept it.”
State claimed this was mere bravado for internal consumption. China is really happy and ready to start negotiating in earnest.
But then Chen gave the Associated Press an interview from his hospital bed — saying that a US official had told him that, if he stayed in the embassy or left for America, China wouldn’t let his family join him. Chen said he was told that “if I don’t leave, they would take my children and family back to Shandong” — and beat his wife.
By the way, that request for a Hillary smooch may have been ill-translated. By some accounts, all Cheng said was “I want to talk to you.”
State denies Chen’s account, and maybe the heroic Chen truly misunderstood the deal. And, hey, China may well end up honoring its supposed vow to stop harassing him.
But that’s an eventuality that America can no longer control.
The only thing we know for sure is that the symbol of opposition to China’s “war on women” is no longer protected by America — and it looks like we tossed him to the wolves.
Read more: nypost.com