US, China Keep Low Profile on Blind Dissident Case

Days before their annual bilateral meeting begins, the United States and China are largely quiet about the blind dissident who recently escaped house arrest and is thought to be under U.S. protection in the Chinese capital, Beijing.

In a response to a reporter's question on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama said he would not make a statement on the issue. He said he is aware of press reports on the situation and added that every time the United States meets with China, the issue of human rights comes up.

U.S. state department officials also declined to comment on the situation surrounding Chen Guangcheng, a lawyer and activist who received a four year jail sentence in 2006 for highlighting abuses stemming from China's one-child policy.

The top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, Kurt Campbell, arrived Sunday in Beijing and is expected to talk with Chinese officials about Chen.

Chinese activist Chen Guangchen
Chinese activist Chen Guangchen

After serving his full sentence, Chen was put under strict surveillance in his home in Shandong province.

Activists say Chen's house arrest was mostly enforced by thugs hired by local officials from his hometown, Linyi. Activists say Chen escaped from his home last week and spent days on the run before seeking what some believe is refuge with U.S. diplomats in Beijing.

Officials at the U.S. embassy have not confirmed the reports.

Chen's ordeal comes ahead of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, scheduled to begin on Thursday in Beijing.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who in the past has pressured the Chinese government to release Chen, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are set to meet with their Chinese counterparts to discuss bilateral relations.

Zhu Feng, a U.S.-China relations expert at Peking University, calls the Chen issue a “hot potato” [delicate topic] for both countries. “First of all, they want to maintain a low key approach,” he said, "and there is a tacit agreement that the situation should not be hyped.”

Although Chen’s escape has made headlines around the world, there has been no report of his status in Chinese media. Chinese Internet censors have silenced online discussion about the case.

In addition to the Chen case, other issues are expected to cause friction at this week's Sino-American meeting, including the possibility that the Obama administration will approve the sale of warplanes to Taiwan.   

The White House says it is considering the proposed sale, which analysts say would draw heated criticism in China. Beijing authorities consider Taiwan part of China, and view arm sales to the island as unwelcome interference in Chinese domestic affairs.  

Because it is an election year in the United States, analyst Zhu Feng said the Obama administration is in a very difficult situation with regard to the talks with China. “The basic principle is that the U.S. should not make easy concessions to China,” he said. “But at the same time, [U.S. President] Obama cannot not want a severe conflict with China over human rights or over arms sales in Taiwan because he realizes that Chinese economic and financial repercussions would be severe.”

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: james
May 02, 2012 5:46 AM
i myself am a chinese citizen redided in dubai, torture and language does widely exist in the chinese prison and detaion camp.fell happy this actvist escaped!

by: Cả Thộn
May 01, 2012 8:04 AM
When human rights are fully respected in China and Vietnam, it would be good for people living there and also good for long term, big foreign investments. When human rghts are suppressed badly, people are sad and business is hard to be develloped high and long.

by: Johnny
April 30, 2012 11:22 PM
i guess that no matter how the words of "human righst" have been polished, in the deep down,we should explain to those believers what interest the USAmericanNation can insure.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs