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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs