Chen Guangcheng: Taking half a loaf

The Chinese government approved a tentative deal allowing the blind legal activist to travel to the U.S. to study law at New York University.

“Crisis averted, we hope,” said the Newark, N.J., Star-Ledger in an editorial. The Chinese government last week approved a tentative deal allowing blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng to travel to the U.S. to study at New York University School of Law, and to take his family with him. It’s a face-saving way for China to get rid of the troublesome Chen, who has campaigned against government-forced abortions and sterilizations of people who violate China’s one-child policy. Chen recently escaped government house arrest and sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing; after days of intense negotiations, he left for hospital treatment, but quickly realized he’d never be safe in China—and the U.S. “could never guarantee that he would be.” The deal also saved President Obama from major embarrassment, said Bradley Klapper in the Associated Press. Now “Washington can say it safeguarded human rights, Beijing can point to its cooperative diplomacy, and Chen gets a new start in America.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the State Department handled this incident with worrisome naïveté, said Yang Su in They allowed Chen to leave the embassy after receiving Chinese guarantees of his “safety,” even though the regime also claimed “Chen was ‘safe’ when he was confined in his home” and being regularly beaten by party thugs. Don’t be surprised if China reneges on letting Chen leave the country. Human rights are simply not a priority for the Obama administration, said Mona Charen in Clinton made it clear last week that she viewed Chen as an annoying impediment to scheduled talks on economic issues. Obama has kept his distance from the Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama, out of fear of offending Beijing, which views him as a threat. “The Chinese appear to have taken Obama’s measure,” which is why they treated both Chen and U.S. negotiators with such open disdain.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us