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Chinese Dissident Hiding In U.S. Embassy

A well known Chinese dissident escaped house arrest over the weekend and made his way to Beijing, where he is now being given sanctuary at the U.S. Embassy:

Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng is under U.S. protection after an bold escape from 19 months under house arrest, sources told NBC News on Monday, a revelation that looked sure to complicate Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s upcoming trip to Beijing.

“My sources tell me that Chen is, indeed, under U.S. protection in Beijing.  Now we don’t know whether that means he’s actually within the walls of the American Embassy compound, or in a diplomatic safe house, but he’s definitely in U.S. hands there,” NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell said on the TODAY Show Monday.

The United States has not given any public confirmation of reports that Chen, who reportedly slipped away from under the noses of guards and bristling surveillance equipment around his village home in Shandong province on April 22, fled the U.S. embassy.

(…)

Bob Fu, whose religious and political rights advocacy group ChinaAid who has been the chief source of information about Chen, said he had confirmed “intensive talks” between the United States and China began right after the activist took shelter in the embassy.

“I was told the Chinese top leaders have been deliberating a decision to be made very soon,” Fu said on Sunday by telephone from Texas. A “Chinese official response (is) expected in the next day or so,” he added.

All of this happens as both Treasury Secretary Geithner and Secretary of State Clinton are getting read to head to China for high level talks with their counterparts and other high level Chinese officials. In addition to the other issues that will be on the agenda — from the dollar and trade to Iran and Syria — one can imagine that this issue is going to received a lot of attention.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Franklin says:

    Based on how the Chinese have apparently treated this guy, I sort of hope Hillary tells them kindly to f**k off.

    Also, you let a blind guy escape? I think the guards have some explaining to do.

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  2. @Franklin:

    Based on how the Chinese have apparently treated this guy, I sort of hope Hillary tells them kindly to f**k off.

    As much as I’d like to do this, given the already heightened level of tensions in the South China Sea, I don’t see how this would be productive, no matter how gratifying.

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  3. Under international law, we likely have no choice but to grant this guy asylum. At least at the embassy

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  4. @Doug Mataconis:

    I agree we should grant him assylum. I just meant that as much as I’d like to take the “Whatcha gonna do about it? Huh!?” stance Franklin proposes, I realize that being provocative solely for the sake of being provactive is rarely a good idea in diplomacy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  5. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis: My understanding, from a colleague who is a former career US Ambassador, is that we actually *can’t* offer asylum to foreign nationals in their own country. He’d have to make it to the United States to seek asylum. We can offer protection within the walls of the Embassy indefinitely, but not asylum.

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  6. @James Joyner:

    Yes that does clarify things. It is interesting though that, so far, the State Dept has not officially acknowledged that he’s at the embassy.

    This also brings up a memory from Cold War days. Wasn’t there a small group of Soviet Jews who basically lived in the U.S. embassy in Moscow for a number of years? I seem to remember something along those lines

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  7. @Stormy Dragon:

    Well as James notes the most we can do at the moment is allow him to stay in the embassy. Getting him (and his family, wherever they might be at the moment) out of the country would require some agreement by the Chinese I would imagine.

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  8. walt moffett says:

    Might want to look up the residence of Cardinal Mindszenty from about 1956 to 1971. Then there’s this page at the US embassy in London which does not appear at the Beijing webpage. Fixing this would be worth adding to the to do list for Congress.

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  9. @Doug Mataconis:

    Getting him (and his family, wherever they might be at the moment) out of the country would require some agreement by the Chinese I would imagine.

    Actually, that’s the easy part. Just put them in a shipping container and declare it a “diplomatic pouch”:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diplomatic_bag

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  10. Bennett says:

    How does a blind man escape Chinese house arrest? I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but the idea of the Chinese letting him escape to cause a diplomatic incident seems like an avenue to explore.

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  11. Tillman says:

    I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but the idea of the Chinese letting him escape to cause a diplomatic incident seems like an avenue to explore.

    Much more likely to be the work of a core group of friends and good Samaritans and ideologues unfriendly to the Chinese government. The sort of story that might win a Best Picture Oscar. Like an Asian Anne Frank with a good ending.

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  12. walt moffett says:

    looks like the issue has been resolved, from the People’s Daily, China demands U.S. apology on Chen Guangcheng’s entering U.S. embassy. Reportedly, he left of his own volition.

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