Mitt Romney took his cues from Fox News and right wing media and put his two-cents into the ginned-up controversy over the botched “defection” of Chinese blind dissident Chen Guangcheng.
Chen has been a vocal critic of the Chinese government’s “one child” law, which limits a family to one natural child. The policy was put in place to cope with China’s population growth, which threatened to overpower their resources. Enforcing it became a human rights nightmare. The government forced women to have abortions if they became pregnant a second time. They forced sterilization to prevent a second pregnancy. But, women also sought abortions to guarantee they would give birth to a son, not a less-desirable daughter. In defiance of the law, the Chens had a second baby and Chen, who has taught himself a fair amount of law, filed suit against the nation on behalf of women in his province. Since 2005, Chen has been in and out of prison and held under house arrest at his home in Dongshigu, Shandong Province, approximately 300 miles south of Beijing.
On April 22, after convincing his guards that he was ill, Chen climbed over his garden wall and walked for twelve hours to meet up with a fellow activist who started the chain of cars that Chen rode in to get to Beijing. He left his wife, Yuan Weijing, son, Chen Derui and daughter Chen Kesi, behind. It appears he naively believed that if he reached his goal, the American Embassy, the government would take no action against his wife and children. The last piece of the chain was a car driven by Americans. On April 27, his arrival at the American Embassy in Beijing was announced by his supporters. Presumptive Republican candidate Mitt Romney promptly called on the administration to do “everything it can” to protect Chen. He made no mention of Chen’s wife and children. Also on April 27, Chen posted a YouTube video expressing his fears for his family.
From there, the story gets a bit murky. Chen’s friends say that he did not want to seek asylum or leave China, he simply wanted to put himself in a position to negotiate a more normal life when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in China on April 29.
Chen made three demands on Premier Wen Jiabao, that the local authorities who had allegedly assaulted his family would be prosecuted, that his family’s safety is guaranteed and that the government would prosecute corruption cases. The Embassy engaged in negotiations which brought Chen’s family to Beijing.
On May 2, Chen left the Embassy for a local hospital where he was reunited with his family. The government had agreed to relocate the family to a city nearer Beijing and allow Chen to enroll in law school. They agreed to investigate any illegal activity by the police or anyone else in Shangdong who persecuted Chen. The Embassy has stated emphatically that Chen never asked for asylum or transport to America.
Chen himself said that his wife persuaded him to take the deal, telling him that they should stay in China and continue the fight for human rights.
Then, things went pear-shaped and Chen now is petitioning America to free him and his family, even saying he wants to leave China on Secretary Clinton’s plane.
Right now, Secretary Clinton, our Ambassador, Gary Locke, and just about everyone in Beijing is trying to work this out. We cannot extract Chen. The Chinese must agree to this exit, and they are not in the best of moods right now, with a senior member of the government involved in a corruption scandal.
Back into the fray strides Mitt Romney. Taking his cue from the outrage being expressed by the right wing, Romney has decided that the embassy in Beijing “failed to put in place the kind of verifiable measures needed” to protect Chen and his family, and “our administration wittingly or unwittingly communicated to Chen an implicit threat to his family and also probably sped up or may have sped up the process of his decision to leave the embassy. If these reports are true, this is a dark day for freedom, and it’s a day of shame for the Obama administration.” Now, what those “verifiable measures” might have been, Romney doesn’t bother to explain and neither does any Republican or right wing media blowhard.
The United States had virtually nothing to do with Chen’s actions until he was in Beijing. They didn’t spring him from house arrest, they didn’t transport him to Beijing, they didn’t set demands for the negotiations. Just how the hell could the Embassy staff have “put in place….verifiable measures” when they had no clue what was going on? The Embassy staff and Ambassador Locke did everything they could on Chen’s behalf, but they could not make his decisions for him or tell him what he wanted. It is not possible to control all the variables when dealing with an erratic human being, and erratic is what Chen has been. He received assurances for his first three demands – the presence of his family in Beijing, the investigation of his accusations of abuse, his personal safety – and then added more demands. He said he wanted to remain in China, then changed his mind and even placed a phone call to a Congressional committee, begging for asylum.
Romney’s remarks are way off base. He has taken a delicate diplomatic situation, an on-going diplomatic situation, and used it to smear of the President.
During the 2010 campaigns, a Republican Congressman quipped that he used to think that Fox News worked for the party, but the party really works for Fox News. Romney just proved, in echoing the right wing noise, that he is being the perfect little Republican puppet.