Chen Guangcheng Headed To The United States

The blind Chinese dissident who set off a diplomatic broohaha after seeking refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Bejing is headed to the United States:

BEIJING — Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal defender who made a dramatic escape from house arrest and whose decision to seek refuge in the American Embassy here jolted American-Sino relations, left China aboard a commercial flight bound for Newark on Saturday.

Mr. Chen and his family departed around 5:30 p.m. on a United Airlines flight after facing earlier delays. The Chens, accompanied by American officials, were brought onto the plane shortly before takeoff and seated in the business-class cabin. Flight attendants drew a curtain around their seats and barred other passengers in the cabin from using the toilet while the plane was on the runway.

In a statement, American officials obliquely praised the Chinese government for its cooperation in resolving what had become a diplomatic headache for both sides. “We also express our appreciation for the manner in which we were able to resolve this matter and to support Mr. Chen’s desire to study in the U.S. and pursue his goals,” Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman said.

Speaking by cellphone before he boarded the flight, Mr. Chen told friends he was excited to leave China but that he was also worried about the fate of relatives left behind. “He’s happy to finally have a rest after seven years of suffering, but he’s also worried they will suffer some retribution,” said Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid, a Christian advocacy group in Texas that championed Mr. Chen’s case.

Mr. Fu, who spoke to Mr. Chen several times on Saturday, said the family had no idea they were leaving — or where they were going — until officials notified them to pack up their few belongings.

They were driven directly to Beijing International Airport by employees of Chaoyang Hospital, where Mr. Chen was being treated for intestinal problems and for the foot he broke during his escape. Mr. Chen told friends that he and his family were handed their passports by Chinese officials shortly before they boarded the plane.

The family waited for their flight in an area separated from other passengers. Airline officials increased security on the flight, and reporters were told they would not be able to speak to Mr. Chen during the 13-hour trip to Newark.


In the two weeks since he left the embassy, Mr. Chen has expressed concern for relatives still at the mercy of local officials in Shandong. American diplomats said Chinese officials rejected a list of 13 people, many of them family members, that Mr. Chen had said he wanted protected from harassment.

A nephew, Chen Kegui, is in police custody accused of slashing and injuring men who broke into his family’s rural home last month in their search for Mr. Chen. The nephew faces a possible death sentence and has been denied access to his lawyers. His father, Chen Guangfu, has said he was tied to a chair and beaten for three days by interrogators seeking information on his brother’s whereabouts.

On Saturday, however, many Chinese dissidents and rights advocates were celebrating, among them Teng Biao, a prominent rights lawyer and friend who had advised Mr. Chen to go abroad.

“I am very happy Mr. Chen will finally have a chance at a normal life,” he said

The fact that Chen and his family are being allowed to leave is a rather extraordinary development itself, and possibly a sign of a change in how China handles these matters now that its leadership realizes that the world is watching what they do.

FILED UNDER: Asia, World Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. PJ says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The fact that Chen and his family are being allowed to leave is a rather extraordinary development itself, and possibly a sign of a change in how China handles these matters now that its leadership realizes that the world is watching what they do.

    Or maybe it’s because that the President is an adult.

    Romney on the other hand…

    The Republican frontrunner raised the political stakes for the Obama administration by saying it should “take every measure” to protect Chen Guangcheng, who escaped from house arrest last Sunday after more than six years.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    It’s a little thing called diplomacy.

    We have a capable president and secretary of state.

    And then we have a bunch of hysterical numbnuts, including Mr. Romney, who seemed to think we should go to war over this. No doubt the apologies will be forthcoming.

  3. Mary Wilson says:

    USA should help its own citizen illegally blocked in China for 4 years come home!!!

  4. anjin-san says:

    Just can’t give Obama or Hillary Clinton any credit, eh Doug?

  5. anjin-san says:

    Today’s story on Fox about Chen heading for America does not mention Obama. I am shocked.. shocked, I say! Bob Fu does get a mention. WSJ mentions Obama only to note his actions in the matter caused “a firestorm in Washington, opening the Obama administration to criticism that it abandoned a vulnerable human-rights activist”.

    Fair & Balanced folks.

  6. The fact that Chen and his family are being allowed to leave is a rather extraordinary development itself

    Not really, this is one of China’s standard ways of getting rid of inconvenient people. Thanks to extensive censorship, it’s easy for the to restrict discussion of someone overseas, and without him being in China to cause trouble in public, overseas dissidents quickly disappear from the general public’s conciousness.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The cause of freedom has been dealt a fatal blow. This is a day of shame for all Americans.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    It’s almost as if the Obama administration handled this whole thing deftly right up to the point where Mr. Chen freaked out and Republicans began grandstanding.

    And now our diplomats (with the evident cooperation of the Chinese) got back to Plan A just as quickly as they could, delayed only by the malicious buffoonery of Republicans and their inexperienced presidential candidate.

    Yeah, almost like that.

  9. anjin-san says:

    When it looked like this affair might end badly, Doug was standing by, ready to blame Obama:

    If it turns out that we’ve turned Chen and his family back over to the wolves that’s going to be something the Obama Administration will have to answer for at some point.

    Now that we have a happy outcome, where is the credit that Doug might pass along to the President? Probably right next to Romney’s certain-never-to-happen apology for his “Day of Shame” idiocy.

  10. Hey Norm says:

    My guess is Doug will give credit to Obama (and Romney will apaologize for the “Day of Shame” remark) about the same time he admits the economy is being held back by his small government ideology and in fact this is the exactly economy he wants to see and has been asking for.

  11. Eric Florack says:

    The fact is this administration and its State Department were reluctant to act until such time as they recognized it was going to be an issue in the reelection campaign. Clinton was particularly sensitive to attacks in that area, given Elian Gonzolez..

  12. anjin-san says:

    Bit, we realize Chen’s freedom is a bitter pill for you to swallow. Sorta like Bin Laden’s death and an improving job market. It’s got to be tough being you.

  13. michael reynolds says:

    @Eric Florack:
    I’d ask for evidence, but we all know you don’t have it. So let’s content ourselves with yet another weary, “You’re full of sh*t, as usual.”

  14. Eric Florack says:

    Apparently you didn’t hear the buzz it was making on the talk show circuit.
    Limbaugh, as an example. Mike Gallagher. The War Room, etc.
    Notice how his being shipped here didn’t come about until after the well justified criticism had started.

    Absent that criticism we’d have heard about how he had died in a tragic house fire or some such.

  15. Eric Florack says:
  16. anjin-san says:

    @ Eric Florack

    Umm. We already know that the hacks that tell you what you think don’t like Obama. You are actually citing Limbaugh? Your game was always pretty weak, but that is pathetic.

    And we also know that Romney blundered into a diplomatic situation that he obviously did not understand. Even the right wing media took him to task for trying to exploit a sensitive diplomatic situation.

    Kristol: Romney’s Attacks On Obama For Handling Of Chinese Dissident Are ‘Foolish’

    When you are running against Obama, and you get Bill Kristol telling you that you are blowing it, you have reached true amateur hour status.

    I think you and Romney make a cute couple. You are both driven by the expedience of the moment, and appear to have little in the way of actual convictions.

  17. michael reynolds says:

    @Eric Florack:
    Why do you bother? Dude, you know nothing about politics. You are incapable of coherent argument. You’ve been nailed about a thousand times making bullshit claims. Do you get some kind of pleasure from being made a fool of?

  18. Hey Norm says:

    I’m pretty sure the guy that stood and made a fool of Trump with the knowledge that Seal Team 6
    at the same was killing OBL….wasn’t sitting around waiting for anyone to tell him what to do…much less fools like Limbaugh and Romney.

  19. anjin-san says:

    Do you get some kind of pleasure from being made a fool of?

    I think Eric has devolved to the point where he is simply a crank. OTB is not even where he gets his real crazy on.