May 3 2012

Kowtow

Charlotte Hays

We don’t know what went on behind closed doors, but at this point it appears that the United States has shamefully let down Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese dissident who escaped house arrest and made it to the U.S. Embassy. Melinda Liu has a chilling report on the Daily Beast:

I’ve known Chen Guangcheng for more than a decade—he’s been through intimidation, beatings, jail, and extralegal house arrest—but through it all I never sensed he was scared. Now he’s scared. Chen, whose case has escalated into a bilateral crisis that threatens to dominate Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Beijing this week, was weeping as he talked to me over the phone from his hospital bed.

Chen says he now wants to leave China as soon as possible: “My fervent hope is that it would be possible for me and my family to leave for the U.S. on Hillary Clinton’s plane.”

When U.S. officials escorted him out of the U.S. embassy shortly after 3 p.m. Wednesday, Chen thought he’d extracted a promise that at least one of them would stay with him at the hospital, he said. “Many Americans were with me while I checked into the hospital and doctors examined me. Lots of them,” he told me from his hospital bed, where he’s being treated for broken bones in one foot, an injury sustained when he fell after climbing a wall during his daring escape from house arrest late last month. “But when I was brought to the hospital room, they all left. I don’t know where they went.” The ordeal was all the more bewildering because Chen is blind and was hurt during his escape; he needs crutches or a wheelchair to move around.

The hours ticked by, and Chen became more and more agitated....

If the U.S. had done the right thing in the first place, this might not have blown up in such an embarrassing way for our country and such a dangerous one for Chen.  The U.S. was concerned about a big powwow Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was having with Chinese leaders. That may have made our government particularly eager to shove Chen out the door in his wheelchair. A more professional administration committed to the value of liberty would have found a way to handle this situation better.

Our president was very listless when, asked about the Chen situation in a press conference with the Japanese prime minister, said that when meeting with Chinese officials human rights issues “always come up.” Always come up…ho hum. The president is more animated when he talks gobbledygook about the “arc of history,” but all too often he seems to think this arc runs through a lot of thug regimes to which we must kowtow.

Michael Rubin had a must-read piece on the Commentary blog about how “betrayal of dissidents is always at the core of realism.” Problem is, from a purely realistic point of view, these betrayals rarely work out well for the betrayers. Why do I think Chen would have been more likely to hitch a ride to freedom on Ronald Reagan's plane than on Hillary's? 

 

 

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