China denounces US as dissident Chen leaves embassy
China's Foreign Ministry said it was extremely unhappy the embassy had taken Chen in. -Reuters
BEIJING - Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng left the US Embassy on Wednesday in Beijing "of his own volition" after being there for six days, state media said on Wednesday, as China denounced the United States for interfering in its internal affairs.
The blind lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, left the embassy by car with US Ambassador Gary Locke, who took him to hospital, The Washington Post said. A Post correspondent spoke briefly to Chen on the phone and he said he was fine.
Just hours earlier, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in China for top-level talks that risk being upstaged by the drama over Chen whose flight to the US Embassy neither China nor the United States would confirm until now.
A brief report by the Xinhua news agency broke China's media silence. A senior US official confirmed that Chen was out of the embassy.
"Chen Guangcheng has arrived at a medical facility in Beijing where he will receive medical treatment and be reunited with his family," said the official who requested anonymity.
China's Foreign Ministry said it was extremely unhappy the embassy had taken Chen in.
"It must be pointed out that the United States Embassy took the Chinese citizen Chen Guangcheng into the embassy in an irregular manner, and China expresses its strong dissatisfaction over this," ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in a statement carried by Xinhua.
"The U.S. method was interference in Chinese domestic affairs, and this is totally unacceptable to China. China demands that the United States apologise over this, thoroughly investigate this incident, punish those who are responsible, and give assurances that such incidents will not recur."
Chen's plight has overshadowed the Strategic and Economic Dialogue due to begin on Thursday. The United States hopes the talks will encourage greater Chinese cooperation on trade as well over Iran, Syria, North Korea and other international disputes.
Relations could easily go awry, especially with the ruling Communist Party wrestling with a leadership scandal and a looming power succession.
Before leaving for China on Monday, Clinton promised to press China's leaders on human rights, an issue that has dropped down the agenda between the two countries in the more than two decades since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
The annual talks give Washington a chance to push China to pressure Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programmes, halting Syria's crackdown on unarmed protesters and reducing tensions over disputed territories in the South China Sea.
But Beijing has been reluctant to back tougher international sanctions against Tehran and Pyongyang. It also worries that U.S. efforts to strengthen its presence in Asia have emboldened countries disputing Chinese claims in the South China Sea.
Nudge on human rights
Washington is preoccupied with President Barack Obama's bid for re-election late this year, but ructions in Chinese domestic politics have dogged ties, causing the Obama administration to tread carefully in dealing with Beijing which faces a leadership succession late this year.
"The vulnerability on the part of the Chinese leadership may in turn make decision-makers even more cautious in foreign policy issues," said Cheng Li, an expert on Chinese politics at the Brookings Institution, a think-tank in Washington D.C.
A commentary in China's official People's Daily overseas edition said the United States was "disturbing still waters" by setting up military bases in Asia, selling weapons to the region and interfering in the South China Sea dispute.
US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is also set to attend the talks, which come amid some progress in long-standing disputes over currency, trade and market access.
But the case of dissident Chen is likely to hover in the background throughout the two days of talks.
Washington had already become entangled in Chinese political upheavals in February, when Wang Lijun, a vice mayor in Chongqing in southwest China, fled to a US consulate for a day and denounced his boss, Bo Xilai, and Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, whom Wang accused of killing a British businessman, Neil Heywood.
'Our actions were lawful': US
Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng left the US Embassy in Beijing on Wednesday "of his own volition" after six days, the Foreign Ministry said, and a senior US official said he planned to remain in China.
A senior US official acknowledged US Embassy staff assisted Chen's entry to the embassy but said their actions in the case were "lawful".
Following are excerpts from a statement on Chen Guangcheng from a senior US official:
"Cheng Guangcheng, who I think all of you know, entered the United States Embassy in Beijing under exceptional circumstances on April 26, 2012, requesting medical treatment from the embassy.
"In part because of his visual disability, he was injured while travelling to Beijing from his home village of Dongshigu in Shandong province - that's a couple of hundreds of miles away.
"On humanitarian grounds, we assisted Mr. Chen in entering our facilities and allowed him to remain on a temporary basis. US medical personnel conducted a series of medical tests and administered appropriated treatment while he was there.
"Throughout his stay at the embassy, US officials consulted regularly with Mr. Chen to discuss his wishes. Mr. Chen made clear from the beginning that he wanted to remain in China, and that he wanted his stay in the United States Embassy to be temporary.
"He indicated that he placed priority on reunification with his family, and that he sought relocation to a safe environment elsewhere in China from the province that he's been living (in).
"He expressed his desire for assistance from the central government in addressing his concerns and grievances, primarily relating to his reported mistreatment and that of his family at the hands of local officials.
"Mr. Chen decided to depart the embassy today and travel to a hospital in Beijing. He did so on the basis of a number of understandings.
"China acknowledged that Mr Chen will be treated humanely while he remains in China He has been reunited with his family - his wife and two children - at the hospital, and they remain together with him as a family.
"He had not seen his son in a few years, and his wife had not seen him (the son) either, so this was a family reunification after a long and difficult separation.
"When he leaves the hospital, the Chinese authorities have stated that Mr. Chen and his family will be relocated to a safe environment so that he may attend a university to pursue a course of study. \
"I think many of you know that he is a self-taught lawyer, that he has long sought the opportunity to study at university... We understand that there are no remaining legal issues directed at Mr Chen, and that he will be treated like any other student in China.
"Chinese officials have further stated that they will investigate reported extra-legal activities committed by local Shandong authorities against Mr. Chen and his family.
"The United States will take a continuing interest in the well-being of Mr. Chen and his family, including seeking period welfare visits and raising his case with the appropriate authorities.
"We will look to confirm at regular intervals that the commitments he has received are carried out.
"We have conveyed to the Chinese government the concerns that he has expressed about friends who helped him travel to Beijing, and have urged authorities to take no retribution against them.
"We have worked together, we have sought to resolve this case in a manner consistent with American values and our commitment to human rights, and in the context of a cooperative US-China partnership."
|Privacy Statement Conditions of Access Advertise|