News

    Chinese Dissident Changes Mind, Now Wants US Asylum

    In this photo released by the US Embassy Beijing Press Office, blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng makes a phone call as he is accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke in a car on the way to a hospital in Beijing, May 2, 2012.
    In this photo released by the US Embassy Beijing Press Office, blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng makes a phone call as he is accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke in a car on the way to a hospital in Beijing, May 2, 2012.
    Stephanie Ho

    Questions hang over the fate of blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who is now appealing for asylum in the United States.

    A few hours after Chen’s departure from the U.S. embassy, the story about his release began to unravel.  

    The key question of whether Chen wanted to stay in China or leave for the United States overshadowed Thursday’s high-level talks between U.S. and Chinese officials in Beijing.

    American ambassador to China Gary Locke told reporters Thursday that he had no doubts one day earlier, when U.S. officials escorted Chen from the embassy to a Beijing hospital.

    “We asked him what did he want to do? Did he want to leave? Was he ready to leave? And we waited several minutes, and then suddenly, very excited, very eager, [he] said, “let's go,” in front of many, many witnesses," Locke recalled.

    The ambassador urged patience and defended the agreement that reportedly would allow Chen to stay in China.

    Backtrack

    However Chen himself appeared to backtrack on the deal hours before Locke’s news conference. The lawyer told foreign journalists in phone conversations that he wants asylum in the United States for himself and his family.

    Chen said he now thinks his rights and safety cannot be assured.  Although he had initially thought about staying in China, Chen said he now has changed his mind and wants to leave the country.

    U.S. officials say they are trying to get a better understanding of Chen's wishes and will seek to help him achieve his objectives.

    No comment

    At a regular briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin gave no details of Chen's arrangements to remain in China, and would not say if China will consider a travel request from him.

    Liu said the incident constituted interference in China's internal affairs. He also called on the U.S. government to abide by Chinese law, but he did not repeat Beijing's demand that Washington apologize.

    Call for help

    New York University law professor Jerome Cohen says he was called in to help with negotiations earlier this week, after all sides - including Chen - had already agreed to what he described positively as an "unusual arrangement".

    “It sounded like an exciting idea that was good and would keep him in China," Cohen said. "And although he knew there were risks, he knew it would be worthwhile, it would allow him to be reunited with the family, it would allow him, for the first time, to have a formal opportunity to study law and to develop cooperative relationships in China and outside, towards the building of a genuine legal system.”

    Cohen says he believes American diplomats negotiated in good faith and the Chinese government has so far lived up to its end of the agreement. But he says he is worried that some human rights groups are now trying to influence Chen.

    “We have to be careful, the human rights community has to be careful, especially, not to get into its own internecine conflict. I think this is a remarkable agreement and we have to test the Chinese government, to see whether it really will carry it out, and we have to carry it out. And it calls for a strong Chen Guangcheng, and that's going to take some time until he can recover from this ordeal,” Cohen said.

    Fate of helpers

    Another issue that activists say deserves attention is the fate of those who helped Chen escape last month from his highly-guarded house arrest.

    Human Rights Watch's Sophie Richardson says she is especially concerned about the case of Nanjing activist He Peirong, also known as Pearl, who has not been heard from since Chen went to the embassy last week.

    “We have no way of knowing whether she is still being detained in some way, whether she's been detained again or whether she is simply lying low,” Richardson said.

    About Chen

    Chen is a 40-year-old self-taught lawyer who spent four years in prison after exposing forced abortions and sterilizations by Chinese family planning authorities. After being released from jail in September 2010, he had been illegally confined to his house and beaten by plainclothes thugs.

    Chen made headline news when he fled to the U.S. embassy last month. He left the American mission Wednesday, and was reunited with his family at a Beijing hospital, where he is currently being treated for a broken foot.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Jonathan Huang
    May 03, 2012 10:05 AM
    Obviously he is looking for a way to go to US, dissident is only a cover, cuz he doesn't really care about freedom of normal Chinese. .

    by: Mike
    May 03, 2012 9:07 AM
    CNN is turning this guy into a media celebrity, and there is no reason to do so except perhaps for their penchant for drama. Look, I am sure he is a good guy, but the U.S. is in no obligation to provide him a political stage or a new home. He should stay in China and help his people. We all know the Chinese dictatorship is corrupt and "dirty" but so what? If it bothered us we would stop buying their goods.

    by: love freedom
    May 03, 2012 6:56 AM
    I am worried about the future of chen if he continues living china.

    by: Wangchuk
    May 03, 2012 5:47 AM
    If Chen truly wants asylum & to leave China, the US & China should respect his request. It's clear life in China offers no real political freedom as there are many Chinese dissidents in jail or under house arrest.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora