Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng’s departure from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing was worked out in a deal that was bold and risky and is now a situation that the Obama administration owns, The Washington Post
said in an editorial.
“By late Wednesday, Mr. Chen, who was then in a Beijing hospital, was telling Western news organizations that his decision had been forced by threats to his family and that he wished to exit China for the United States,” the Post wrote. “That may or may not reopen a six-day crisis over his status. What’s clear is that the Obama administration now bears moral responsibility for Mr. Chen’s freedom and welfare.”
The blind, 40-year-old activist desired to remain in China and hoped to force officials to end persecution of his family and allow him to work as a human rights lawyer. Diplomats believed they had cut just such a deal.
“The progress this would represent, and Mr. Chen’s professed desire to remain in China, made the deal a risk worth taking” the Post noted. “But it also put the Obama administration under obligation. Having strongly encouraged Mr. Chen to accept the Chinese offer, the administration must ensure that he is treated fairly — or appear naive and feckless. Already Mr. Chen’s supporters and human rights groups are suggesting that the Americans pressured him into a bad deal because of their desire not to disrupt a U.S.-China strategic dialogue that began Wednesday evening.”
U.S. officials insist that Mr. Chen never asked for asylum nor was he told his family might be at risk if he did not leave the embassy. They are to meet with him again to see if he wants to leave the country.
“If he remains, the test of U.S. mettle will come in the next weeks and months,” the Post concluded. “If Mr. Chen is allowed to live freely, the Obama administration can claim credit for a human rights breakthrough. If not, the United States must defend him and his family — and not allow business as usual in U.S.-Chinese relations.”
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