Our values dictate help for Chen
The story of Chen Guangcheng is a tale that can both fill the heart and make the blood within it boil.
Chen is a blind, self-taught lawyer who found himself at odds with Chinese leaders for exposing forced abortions and sterilizations among the residents of his hamlet in Shandong province in eastern China.
Chen was jailed for four years and released in September 2010 to return to his home, where he was confined and was reported to have suffered, along with his family, regular beatings from local officials.
On April 22, Chen slipped out of his house, over a wall and past some 100 guards deployed to prevent exactly what Chen had in mind, escape.
We have only a trickle of detail about Chen’s nighttime escape, but most of the versions of the tale note that he had a minimal advantage of being blind and knowledgeable of the topography of his native land, whereas his would-be keepers had the distinct disadvantage of being dependent on their sight. That hardly diminishes the daring nature of Chen’s bolt for freedom, which was intended to end up at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, where he showed up on April 27.
The timing was no accident. Chen was hoping to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is in Beijing to attend U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue meetings.
Chen’s plan worked well, right up to the Clinton part.
Instead of persuading Clinton, and by extension, the United States, to aid him, Chen found that negotiations were about to “free” him to return home, the place from which he had just escaped.
He then realized that his life, and that of his family, hung in a delicate balance and issued a plea for Clinton to take him and his family to safety.
To date, Chen has no new assurances of safety for himself or for his family, even though Clinton said his escape from China as reflective of “his choices and our values.”
For Chen now, though, Clinton has only silence, failing to mention his name in a discussion of human rights with her hosts.
The United States should not dispose of those values because they are momentarily inconvenient.
We hope that when Secretary of State Clinton departs Beijing, it is with Chen, his wife and children safely aboard her jet.