Poor Chen Guangchen. His case is reportedly moving along, but the answers are not coming to some serious questions about Chen’s future. Will there be retribution for those who helped Chen escape? Will he actually be permitted to leave the country? How is his health? Apparently, the U.S. Embassy has abandoned Chen. It is difficult to get information, and many folks, apparently, have lost interest in Chen’s case. Thankfully, Jennifer Rubin is still on the case and files this report for the Washington Post. There is one bit of ominous news in her story–a journalist trying to cover the story has been expelled from China.
There are more ups and downs to Chen Guangchen’s life right now than you’d find on a Coney Island roller coaster. It seems that Chen’s fate is all or nothing now. Supposedly, he is going to be allowed to leave China. The latest report says that Chen may be allowed to leave with his family and attend New York University as a fellow. That would definitely be the up-side to this dilemma.
Realistically, though, Chen may never leave China. His closest friends and counselors admit that Chen is afraid, even while more popular news accounts see light dawning which points toward his freedom from China. Honestly, there are three aspects of this case which cause me to fear a down-side to Chen’s future.
First, the U.S. and human rights groups on the side of Chen’s release have given away much of their original bargaining power. As this New York Times article points out, the Obama administration made some mistakes early in the process out of the hope of a quick resolution. The initial mistake was allowing Chen to be taken to the hospital (out of the embassy control) without ensuring that U.S. officials would be given access to him. Since Chen has been in the hospital, U.S. officials have been denied access. A second mistake was made when the Obama administration turned Chen over to Chinese authorities without securing guarantees of safety for him, his family, and his close friends who aided in his escape.
As a result of a weakened position, the U.S. cannot realistically demand freedom for Chen’s colleagues. So, the second aspect of this case which I believe does not bode well for Chen is the fact that his extended family, friends, and colleagues are now in serious danger. Even as it was reported that Chen originally agreed to leave the embassy because his wife was being threatened, so, now, Chen may again succumb to threats against those whom he cares for and loves. They remain in serious danger (as this article details). There are reports that officials from Shandong province are in Beijing, following Chen’s family and waiting to take them back into custody as well. Consider this short paragraph from China Aid:
Chen’s frail mother remains detained, his brother Chen Guangfu and nephew Chen Kegui will be sentenced, and the netizens who helped Chen escape, like He “Pearl” Pierong, still face charges. Also, famed human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong was beaten on Friday morning for trying to visit Chen. He reportedly has lost hearing after the beating.”
Third, thus far, the so-called agreement involves Chen being allowed to submit an application for study abroad. Submitting an application for study abroad is a FAR cry from actually studying abroad. If this is all the promise that Chen is given by the Communist leaders in China, then Chen is not guaranteed anything. Indeed, how awkward it would be for Chen to appeal to the very same authorities who have allegedly tortured and beaten him for the past two years in order to gain his release! Hopefully, the incident has been so public and so damaging to the Chinese government that they will decide their best option is to let Chen and his family leave China. (Side note here: For the last two years Chen has been unable to be with his son. His reunion with his son came only after he was taken to the hospital upon leaving the U.S. Embassy.
A hearing was held in the U.S. Congress today. C-SPAN has the video if you would like to watch. Chen actually is telephoned during the hearing and speaks to the congressional committee about his case.