Activist Chen Asks Obama to Get His Family Out of China

Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese human rights activist and lawyer who took refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing after escaping from extralegal house arrest in Shandong province last week, left U.S. protection on Wednesday and went to a hospital in Beijing. U.S. State Department officials say that he only departed after the Chinese government — which is demanding an apology from the U.S. for sheltering Chen “via abnormal means” — made assurances that he would be safe. Americans officials said that Chen would be allowed to study law in the university town of Tianjin, far away from his home town where he had been harassed and intimidated for years.

But controversy, and tensions, remain as to how Chen’s case was handled by both governments and will likely overshadow the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, talks that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton only just arrived in Beijing for. Hours after it was announced that Chen was no longer in the U.S. Embassy and had reunited with his wife, Yuan Weijing, and daughter and son (whom he had not seen in years), his lawyer, Teng Biao, said that Chen no longer felt safe in China and had “changed his mind.” According to the BBC, Chen has said that he feels “let down” by the U.S. CNN has quoted Chen making an appeal to President Barack Obama:

“I would like to say to President Obama – please do everything you can to get our family out.”

According to Virginia Nuland, U.S. State Department spokeswoman, Chen said during his six days in the U.S. Embassy that he did not wish to seek asylum in the U.S. and that he wished to remain in China.

Chen, who did not receive a formal education due to his disability and speaks broken English, spoke to Clinton over the phone as he was leaving the embassy. According to a U.S. official, he reportedly said to her “I would like to kiss you”; he subsequently told reporters that he had said he would like to “see” her.

Similar confusion has arisen about some other statements relayed between Chen and U.S. officials, notes the New York Times:

…in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from his hospital bed late Wednesday evening, Mr. Chen said American officials told him while he was under American protection that Chinese authorities had threatened to beat his wife to death unless Mr. Chen left the American embassy, and that Mr. Chen therefore left under coercion.

An American official denied that account. The official said Mr. Chen was told that his wife, Yuan Weijing, who had been brought to Beijing by the Chinese authorities while Mr. Chen was in the American Embassy, would not be allowed to remain in the capital unless Mr. Chen left the embassy to see her. She would be sent back to Mr. Chenís home village in Shandong, where no one could guarantee her safety.

In speaking to Britainís Channel 4 News, Chen also expressed “regret” that he was no longer under American protection.

Negotiations between U.S and Chinese officials started on April 26, with American negotiators meeting with their counterparts from the Chinese Foreign Ministry and relaying details to Chen, who remained at the Embassy and did not meet directly with Chinese officials.

Bob Fu, president of the United States-based China Aid association which has advocated for Chen and other Chinese activists, said that he feared that the U.S. has “abandoned” Chen and expressed concern that he had not left the U.S. Embassy voluntarily. Citing “reliable sources,” Fu said Chen had only left the Embassy because the Chinese government had made “serious threats to his immediate family.”

As the BBC’s Michael Bristow comments, “It is difficult to see how Mr Chen has been given guarantees that will allow him to carry on his activism, inside China, if that is the life he chooses to pursue.” The U.S. has only “limited scope” to hold China to the promises made about Chen’s safety. †The dispute over Chen could still “turn into a crisis,” says Bristow, and “the timing could not have been worse” with the Sino-American strategic talks about topics ranging from North Korea to the global economy scheduled to begin on Thursday. China, says the†New York Times, “regards foreign criticism of its human rights policies and practices as undue interference in its internal affairs” and this point will surely be raised by Chinese officials.


Related Care2 Coverage

Blind Chinese Activist Likely to Receive US Asylum

Chinese Crackdown Feared After Dissident Chenís Escape

Is Chinese Activist Chen Guangcheng In the US Embassy? (Video)


Image of Chen Guangcheng from a screenshot of a video uploaded by bxnews

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Loo Samantha
Loo sam3 years ago


Michelle Gershon
Michelle Gershon3 years ago

I am absolutely horrified that the United States is not doing more to help this man and his family. It is disgusting to me that our supposedly freedom loving government did not immediately take Chen and his fmaily away on Hilary Clinton's helicopter as he requested. The US government obviously cares little for human rights. I once wanted to be a US diplomat (I even took and passed the test), but now I want nothing to do with the US government. It will kill people for freedom, but not peacefully save them when they are crying out for help?

KS Goh
KS Goh3 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Michael C.
Michael C.3 years ago

A N M, Your comment on the U.S. Governments many human rights violations is so very correct, I just wished that more Americans would wake up and smell the napalm.

First, lets Stop the Drone Program or at least aim them at Washington and Crawford, Texas.

Michael C.
Michael C.3 years ago

Janina R, I don't know about you but I smell a rat, and the rat is the U.S. Government. I believe that Embassy and Washington conspired against the fellow.

Gary A. You are not paranoid, for this Chen fellow to remain within the confines of the U.S. Embassy, he could have been there for years.

I smell a Hainan Island. Do any of you remember the incident?

A U.S. intelligence aircraft (read, spy plane) was forced to land on Hainan Island on April 1, 2001, after colliding with a Chinese J-8ll.

Of course that coward George W. Bush thought that the Chinese would bow to the America demands...the Chinese did not and they sent Washington a bill for $34,000 for dismantling the plane and for food and lodging for 11 days of detention for the planes crew. Oh, yes, we paid the bill.

Moral to the story...don't go toe to toe against the Chinese, we will lose each and every time.

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson3 years ago


Lynn Squance
Lynn Squance3 years ago

Well said Denise J. I agree with you --- there is more here than meets the eye. There is missing information because too much does not make sense.

I certainly wish Mr Chen and his family well, without doubt.

A N M.
Anne m.3 years ago

Chen strikes me as a bit daffy. He's a human rights activist and seeks help from the US which is the world's worst human right violator? Why? In case it escaped this guy but dropping bombs on other countries like the US likes to do regularly violates the human rights of everybody in the attacked country, espectially those of the children there. And Hillary Clinton from the home of Guantanamo Bay runs to China to whine about human rights? Is that woman serious? I'm sorry, but it's a bit hard to believe that human rights are the primary concern of Mr. Chen or he would have gone to the embassy of a country that doesn't constantly violate humans rights worse than even China does.

Denise Janssen Eager

Why would Chen leave the U.S. Embassy? He's been a Human Rights activist & lawyer for 17 years and - along with his wife - had previously been tortured by the Chinese government so he personally knows the horrors of what they are capable of. When planning this escape, he fully knew his family & those helping him would be tortured by the Chinese if he carried it out & sought asylum in the US Embassy. To then decide to stay in China, leave the Embassy, collect his family, say he didn't know his wife would be "beaten to death" if he left the country, regrets his decision to leave the Embassy, & now wants the U.S. to intervene to get the entire family out of China does not make sense.

Neither can I imagine that he would naively undertake this odyssey just to get his family together then think the U.S. would be able help when he is outside of the Embassy. He thoroughly understands & has experienced the Chinese government's repressive regime.

There is something that we, the public, are not being told.

I do agree that once Chen's story stops being front page news, anyone still living in China who is connected to this moment in history, will feel the Chinese government's retribution for creating this politically embarrassing situation. This will further serve as an example for other Chinese & Tibetan activists who are seeking publicity & freedoms for their causes.

Janina R.
Janina R.3 years ago

I am sorry for him--but he had his chance--then he left our embassy--and now he wants back in. We cannot run our government to attend to his needs--however pressing. I suspect that there are millions of the Chinese who have plenty of good reasons to want to come here--it is impossible to do it. He has always claimed that he wanted to change China from within-he needs to continue it.