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CHINA/ Chen Guancheng and relations with the U.S.

Chen Guangcheng, a Chinese dissident who had been under house arrest, escaped and could be hiding in the U.S. Embassy, causing diplomatic difficulties for both countries involved.

Map of the Laogai in China Map of the Laogai in China

Chen Guangcheng is a self-taught Christian lawyer, 41 years old, blind almost from birth, who has long fought against the campaign of forced abortions imposed by the Chinese communist regime in the province of Shandong. After four years and three months of Laogai (forced labor), he was forced into house arrest in September 2010.

Apparently, thanks to a group of human rights activists, on Thursday, April 26, he managed to escape the police and is now hidden in a safe place, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, according to rumors from other dissidents. For the time being, both the American officials and the Chinese government continue to decline to comment on this possibility.

John O. Brennan, Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, said on Fox News Sunday that the president tries to “balance our commitment to human rights” with continuing “to carry out our relationships with key countries overseas”. Obama “has faced similar situations in the past in terms of this balancing requirement,” Brennan continued and he “will do whatever he thinks is in the best interest of the United States as well as the individuals involved”.

The Washington Post reports that “Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said in a statement Sunday that he hopes the United States ‘will take every measure to ensure that Chen and his family members are protected from further persecution.’ He said U.S. policy toward China must address human rights violations. ‘Our country must play a strong role in urging reform in China and supporting those fighting for the freedoms we enjoy,’ he said”.

According to Asia News, “US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell to Beijing yesterday, two days ahead of schedule, to prepare the summit still set for 3-4 May. US Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, who has been in China several times in the past few months to drum up financial support for the US, will also attend the meeting”.

It will be no easy task given
the complexity of the China-US relationship. As Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at Renmin University, stated, reported by Asia News: "Both sides want to look for a solution [to the Chen incident] that is consistent with the core values of each country, while maintaining the status quo in bilateral ties", and he continued, "Beijing finds the escape of Chen embarrassing, and a tough US approach on the case will amplify such feelings. The US is well aware of that and won't play up the human rights card".