China dissident Chen 'can apply to study abroad'

 

Clinton: "This is... about the human rights and aspirations of a billion people here in China."

China says prominent dissident Chen Guangcheng can apply to study abroad, potentially indicating a way out of the diplomatic crisis with the US over him.

A foreign ministry statement said Mr Chen could "apply through normal channels in accordance with the law".

The blind dissident fled house arrest last month and spent six days inside the US embassy. He left but now says he wants to go to the US with his family.

His case has overshadowed high-level US-China talks taking place in Beijing.

"If he wishes to study overseas, as a Chinese citizen, he can, like any other Chinese citizens, process relevant procedures with relevant departments through normal channels in accordance to the law," Xinhua news agency quoted spokesman Liu Weimin as saying.

Speaking at the end of the two-day annual strategic dialogue, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was "encouraged" by the Chinese statement.

"Progress has been made to help him have the future he wants," she told a news conference in Beijing.

Mrs Clinton also confirmed that US embassy staff, including a doctor, had been able to meet Mr Chen.

Paperwork

Analysis

After delivering Chen Guangcheng into Chinese hands, the Americans will now be under pressure to secure his safety.

Mr Chen left the US embassy in Beijing saying he wanted to stay in China. It is now clear he wants to leave. But that might not be easy to arrange.

While the activist was in the embassy the US had more control over his fate than now.

At the moment, the Americans seem to be finding it difficult even to see the activist, as he languishes in a hospital bed, surrounded by guards.

Mr Chen came out of the US embassy thinking his safety had been assured - but it is hard to escape the conclusion that he is already in detention.

Earlier, China had demanded an apology from the US for sheltering Mr Chen in its embassy.

Despite the apparent change of heart from the government, one human rights lawyer told the Reuters news agency that Mr Chen could still be delayed or prevented from leaving the country.

"This notice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is positive news, but how it will play out we don't know," Tang Jitian told Reuters.

"For instance, getting the approval for the paperwork to go - there are many potential pitfalls. We can't be 100% optimistic."

Mr Chen is currently in a Beijing hospital, sealed off by Chinese police.

The deputy head of mission at the US embassy to Beijing was seen arriving at the hospital on Friday, carrying gifts. He met Mr Chen's wife Yuan Weijing but was prevented from meeting the dissident himself.

On Thursday, Mr Chen telephoned a US Congressional hearing in Washington DC, saying he feared for the safety of his family and wanted to meet Mrs Clinton face to face.

Chen Guangcheng said he was not allowed to see US officials (seen here leaving gifts outside hospital) - he said the situation was very dangerous

Mr Chen spent a week in the US embassy but left after initially accepting China's assurances of his safety.

However, he later said that he only realised the full extent of the threats against his family members after he left the embassy.

'Boundless range of issues'

Speaking after talks with the Chinese leadership, Mrs Clinton said she had raised the issue of human rights, although she did not mention Mr Chen by name.

Mr Chen made a dramatic phone call to a US Congressional hearing

"Of course, the United States continues to raise human rights because we believe that they are essential for every country to uphold," she said at the end of the two-day annual strategic dialogue with China.

"We raise specific matters of individuals and situations whenever necessary because we cannot ignore our areas of difference in the comprehensive relationship that we are building," Mrs Clinton said.

China's top diplomat, foreign relations councillor Dai Bingguo, said the talks had covered a "boundless range of issues".

"There's nothing we haven't discussed. But I think we have discussed one fundamental issue, that is how to build a new China-US relationship, a new relationship between great powers," Mr Dai said.

Mr Chen told the BBC he had changed his mind about staying in China because he believed Beijing had reneged on an agreement to guarantee his safety.

There is no official confirmation of any such agreement, but media reports from the US suggest that Mr Chen had been promised safety in a university town in China.

Dissident 'deals' for exile

  • Fang Lizhi: Intellectual who inspired Tiananmen Square protesters. The day after tanks moved in, he sought refuge in the US embassy. He was finally allowed to leave in 1990 after a complex deal, which saw him go to the UK to study and then into political exile in the US
  • Wang Dan: One of the Tiananmen Square student leaders, he spent time in prison, before being released ostensibly for medical reasons and sent to the US for treatment in 1996-1997 where he settled as a political exile
  • Wei Jingsheng: Chinese democracy activist who was sentenced to 14 years in prison but released early in 1997 on "medical parole" and immediately deported to the US

Mr Chen, 40, is a lawyer who has campaigned against forced abortions and sterilisations of women under China's policy of one child per family.

Mr Chen told the Associated Press news agency his phone calls to American officials "keep getting cut off after two sentences".

He also told AP his wife was being followed and filmed by unidentified men whenever she was allowed to leave the hospital. And he said one of his friends was taken away by state agents and beaten after he tried to visit Mr Chen.

The case has increasing political resonance in the US, where Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticised the administration of President Barack Obama.

Mr Romney said that if reports that US officials had persuaded Mr Chen to leave the embassy were true, "this is a dark day for freedom and it's a day of shame for the Obama administration".

The Beijing Daily, one of China's main official newspapers, said Mr Chen was an American pawn and criticised US ambassador Gary Locke as a "backpack-wearing, Starbucks-sipping troublemaker".

Mr Locke caused a stir in China last year when he was seen carrying his own backpack and ordering his own coffee at Seattle airport, in contrast to Chinese officials who usually travel with an entourage.

 

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Chen Guangcheng

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  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 38.

    35.Bauer
    It may be unacceptable, but like I said, they are dealing with Obama/DC/TB, are you saying UK/US gov don't lock people up indefinitely?
    All they can think when they see these faces is "are you serious? you are telling us? that's a bit rich." Would you listen to someone taking your money saying you can't take theirs?
    Pratice before you preach. Simple.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 37.

    Most of the Eastern countries and some countiries in Africa look to be infantile in the process of democratization, we seem to have rulers and not leaders....

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 36.

    He is allowed to study abroad. It is entirely up to him. As long as it is the 3-year Chinese Cultural Greatness, Magnificence & Benevolent Learnings course, held in Pyongyang.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 35.

    @Cheddy

    So you think there is absolutely nothing wrong with a Government locking someone up for years then putting them under indefinite house arrest for doing absolutely nothing wrong.

    Then when they manage to get away they are intimidated into coming back due to threats against their family.

    That's not culture, it's inhuman treatment.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 34.

    Would I rather be a British Citizen than a Chinese one - would I be more 'free'? Probably. Not necessarily.

    Would I emigrate to China? Maybe - I could probably find better paid job.

    Human rights abuses happen all over the world every day. We should be vigilant and call out abuses everywhere. there is no room for complacency. Human Rights, and their abusers, are not defined by their nationality.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 33.

    Study abroad and leave your family with us as hostages.
    Practically mediaeval.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 32.

    China is abroad.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 31.

    26.Bauer
    Each gov decides its own policy and everyone can do the same. If UK gov is so great, plz fix UK economy! My prob is, most of us don't understand how some1 can care more about growth/std of living/unity and less about HR. Well, that's Chinese culture for you. Are we honestly saying the "tolerant" west is doing the right thing? Beat China in growth first and they will listen!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 30.

    @24. I think that is the very point. No UK citizen in his right mind would enter a Chinese Embassy for sanctuary. Has there ever been an instance? I may be wrong. This dissident went to the US Embassy because in his mind it stood for better values and above all, freedom. Just as the people on this forum knocking the US and West as 'oppressive' would never dream of emigrating to China.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 29.

    //bobbgooduk
    I did wonder how long it would be before we have military parades on May Day.
    Very easy to be critical, but "the west" has no moral highground. //

    Yes it does. Go to a country like china or the mideast and you'll appreciate the freedoms you have here.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 28.

    Which way will the Chinese play it?
    1. Let him "study" abroad until the hoohah blows over, keeping his family as hostages for his return.
    2. return him to prison and wait out the protests.
    3. Remove the thorn in their side by letting him and his family go, and forbidding his return.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 27.

    Its sad to see someone having to flee from their home country for simply having an opinion. Wouldn't it be nice one day if this didn't have to happen...

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 26.

    No Cheddy.

    They are doing well, any country in the World would be doing well if they implemented such measures like artificially devaluing their own currency to boost exports.

    Anyway what I was referring to was how much their Government oppresses their own citizens. They wrote the book on human rights abuse and make countries like North Korea look like amateurs in comparison.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 25.

    Having watched the boys "waving their willies" yesterday showing off their military hardware in London and hearing about the stockpiling of plastic bullets by the Met, I did wonder how long it would be before we have military parades on May Day.
    Very easy to be critical, but "the west" has no moral highground. Having said that, I hope Mr Chen and his family find happiness wherever they settle.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 24.

    People criticising the US government for their handling of this are woefully ignorant of diplomatic protocol. Don't misconstrue what I'm about to say, but imagine what would happen if a wanted UK citizen went into the Chinese embassy and asked for sanctuary. We might strongly agree with Chen, and strongly oppose the Chinese government, but he was "wanted" (rightly or wrongly) under Chinese law.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 23.

    15.Xander
    Yes, I suppose that's how the society should react. However, we must remember the Chinese don't deal with the western people, at least the reasonable ones. They deal with the politicians, who we can't even stand ourselves.. If I had to speak to DC everyday and pretend he's a reasonable guy, I will be frustrated as well. Media never covers that, do they?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 22.

    I am looking forwards to tonights news with footage of Hilary Clinton hugging a tearful Chen tightly against her bosom...


    If that was me...I would cry too

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 21.

    Rocktapper@6. What does history have to do with it? The sooner all people stop harping on about the right and wrongs of history, the sooner the human race might find some peace! We cannot make amends for what happened 100 or 300 years ago, so let it go!
    Perhaps people should support human rights in China by refusing to buy the products made there. Fat chance, as most want their smart gadgets!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 20.

    It seem's China may say we have 1.3 billion to look after.
    if you want one be my guest.

    I think this was started on one child policy of china.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 19.

    7.Bauer

    Back in the 60s, during the culture revolution, the west was painted as a evil machine destroying its working classes. Now China is this hole and everyone wants out? Bit of political spinning don't you think?
    There's now growth, development and future in China & if you bothered to check, it's not that bad over there and western leaders visit China like it's their fav nation.

 

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