Friday, May 4, 2012

No deal announced on Chen Guangcheng as Clinton wraps up China meetings

BEIJING (Washington Post) — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton closed high-level trade talks in China on Friday without a deal to secure the immediate exit from the country of blind activist Chen Guangcheng.

Chen, who made a dramatic plea on Thursday to depart China with Clinton, remained in a Beijing hospital, surrounded by police. China’s foreign ministry said the self-taught lawyer would have to apply through normal channels if he wants to study or travel outside the country--which likely means returning to his home, where he has been confined under house arrest and beaten, to apply for a passport.

But Clinton described China’s statement as encouraging, and her spokeswoman said the U.S. government would give visa requests for Chen and his family immediate attention, adding that Chen has been offered a fellowship by a university in the United States that would permit his wife and children to join him.

China “has indicated that it will accept Mr. Chen’s applications for appropriate travel documents,” the spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said in a statement. “The United States government expects that the Chinese government will expeditiously process his applications for these documents, and make accommodations for his current medical condition.”

Neither Clinton nor her Chinese counterparts mentioned Chen in their formal remarks at the end of a two-day meeting on trade and security issues, saying instead that U.S.-Sino differences on human rights issues must not disrupt the broader relationship between the two world powers.

State Counsellor Dai Bingguo, China’s top foreign policy expert, said his country and the United States still have “fundamental differences” on human rights issues. “Human rights should not be a disturbance in state-to-state relations,” Dai said. “It should not be used to interfere in another country’s internal affairs.”

At a brief news conference, Clinton said that embassy staff, including a doctor, were able to meet with Chen on Friday. “Over the course of the day, progress has been made to help him have the future that he wants,” Clinton said. “We will be staying in touch with him as this process moves forward.”

She promised to “continue engaging with the Chinese government at the highest levels” on the “human rights and aspirations” of all people.

Over the last two days, Chen has told friends and advocates of threats and mistreatment by Chinese security officials. He said he fears for his and his family’s safety and wants to leave China for a temporary stay in the United States, perhaps to study at a university.

In a telephone interview, Chen said he does not blame American officials for his plight after leaving the U.S. Embassy under a deal they helped strike. But he accused Chinese officials of reneging on their promises to fully restore his freedom.

Chen made a dramatic call into a congressional hearing that took place in Washington on Thursday, telling U.S. lawmakers through the cellphone of a human rights activist that he wanted to travel to the United States to rest and that he was most worried about “the safety of my mother and my brothers.”

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