Abandoning Chen

Washington draws justified criticism for stepping back from its own rhetoric

Written by The Indian Express | Published:May 4, 2012 3:08 am

Washington draws justified criticism for stepping back from its own rhetoric

Apparently wary of Beijing and the fate of the fourth round of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue,Washington struck a deal which would allow blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng and his family to settle away from their home province of Shandong and its local authorities,with Chen permitted to study law. Now,despite US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s claim that the outcome reflected “his choices and our values”,Washington finds itself accused of betrayal and hypocrisy — deservedly so.

By all accounts,prior to Chen’s departure from the US embassy in Beijing,the Americans actively helped him flee from house arrest and enter the embassy premises. Beijing could perhaps not be faulted for objecting if the Americans ran around Chinese territory to “rescue” Chen. However,after so much drama and a lecture to the Chinese on human rights,America decided to strike a deal,leaving Chen,more or less,where he began. That’s why there has been sharp criticism of the Obama administration in the US and from Chinese online activists. The context of the bilateral talks has only bolstered the assumption that the US yet again resorted to the “big picture” argument to excuse its stepping back from its own rhetoric on human rights.

US officials and Chen have disagreed about what exactly the latter wanted,whether he wanted to remain in the embassy,whether any pressure was applied on him,or if there were threats from the Chinese authorities to his family. Regardless of those details,how will US officials ensure Chen’s “human rights” in the “years ahead”,as Clinton has promised? They may never see him again.

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