Blind Chinese activist seeks sanctuary in the U.S.
Sheltered in U.S. embassy, incident has strained Chinese- U.S. ties
Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng now says he wants to leave for
the U.S. rather than stay in China. After being sheltered in the U.S.
embassy in Beijing, however, the international incident throws into
doubt a deal to defuse an impasse that has strained China-US ties.
Chen Guangcheng had taken refuge at the mission for six days after escaping house arrest. He left under a diplomatic solution in which the U.S. said China promised that Chen could join his family and be allowed to start a new life in a university town.
Chen had taken refuge at the mission for six days after escaping house arrest. He left under a diplomatic solution in which the U.S. said China promised that Chen could join his family and be allowed to start a new life in a university town. Part of the agreement was he remain secluded from the rural authorities who had abused him in prison during his house arrest for nearly seven years.
Chen told reporters that he was escorted by U.S. officials after leaving the embassy and that he had changed his mind after speaking to his wife who spoke of recent threats made against his family.
"I feel very unsafe. My rights and safety cannot be assured here," he said. Chen added that his family supported his decision to try to get to the U.S.
Chen cited descriptions from his wife, Yuan Weijing, who said his family had been surrounded by Chinese officials who menaced them. Chen is from a village in rural Shandong province, and has two children.
"When I was inside the American embassy, I didn't have my family, and so I didn't understand some things. After I was able to meet them, my ideas changed."
Chen's decision puts more strain on U.S.-China relations at a tense time for both countries.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton found herself in the eye of the diplomatic storm, turning up for the opening of annual bilateral talks in Beijing which have now been overshadowed -- but not derailed by the Chen case.
Clinton used the occasion to urge China to protect human rights but made no specific mention of Chen, whom she had spoken to after he left the embassy.
"We believe that all governments do have to answer to citizens' aspirations for dignity and the rule of law and that no nation can or should deny those rights," Clinton said as she opened the annual strategic and economic Dialogue. She did not directly mention the name of Chen.
China's President Hu Jintao reiterated that China and the U.S. must respect each other even if they disagree.
Hu said that "given our different national conditions it is impossible for both China and the United States to see eye to eye on every issue."
China has since demanded that the U.S. apologize for sheltering Cheng in its embassy. Liu Weimin, foreign ministry spokesman, said: "China is very unhappy over this. The U.S. action is an interference in China's internal affairs and China cannot accept it."
"Chen Guangcheng, a native from Yinan County of eastern China's Shandong province, entered the U.S. embassy in Beijing in late April and left of his own volition after a six-day stay in the embassy," he said.
© 2012, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Chen Guangcheng, activist, sanctuary, China, U.S.
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