The United States should immediately grant asylum to Chen Guangcheng and his family, along with the activist who rescued him, He Peirong. Chen and his wife have both stated that they are in danger.
U.S. officials contend that Chen left the U.S. Embassy yesterday of his own volition to seek medical treatment at a hospital. From the hospital, however, Chen told friends and the media that he was not given full information on which to base his decision. He told Associated Press, moreover, that a U.S. official relayed a threat that if Chen did not leave the Embassy, he wife would be beaten to death. He told CNN, “I am very disappointed at the U.S. government.”
Chen also told CNN that after he escaped, his wife was tied to a chair in their home for two days. Guards carried sticks into their home and threatened to beat her to death. They also moved into their house, eating at their table and using their belongings. They have installed seven surveillance cameras inside their home. These facts convinced Chen that it would not be safe for him or his family to remain in China. He did not learn these facts until he was reunited with his wife in the hospital.
Chen then told CNN, “I would like to say to (President Obama): Please do everything you can to get our whole family out.” He told the Daily Beast, “My fervent hope is that it would be possible for me and my family to leave for the U.S. on Hillary Clinton’s plane.”
After Chen’s miraculous, “mission impossible” escape and the risks he and others took to deliver him safely to the U.S. Embassy, why did the U.S. officials press him to leave and hand this noble man back into the hands of those who have been so fiercely persecuting him and his family?
If so, this action is beyond shameful. Not only have we let Chen down, but we have betrayed those in China that we should most want to support: those who share our values.
Many in China have regarded the U.S. Embassy as the lone island of freedom and justice in a land filled with repression and injustice. Given their trust, how could the U.S. hand over a deserving citizen who had fled there for protection?
Chen is hugely symbolic in China, the conscience of the nation. By challenging the One Child Policy, he has challenged the lynchpin of social control in China. This explains the ferocity of the Chinese Communist Party’s reaction to him.
When Chen Guangcheng fled to the U.S. Embassy, the U.S. had a golden opportunity to do the right thing – give him and his family asylum and bring them to safety in the U.S. This would have erased a generation of anti-American propaganda and inspired gratitude, admiration and trust among the Chinese people. Instead the U.S. expediently dispatched Chen out the door, shattering our moral credibility before the world and losing the hearts and minds of a generation of Chinese people who share our values.
The only way to redeem the situation is as clear as it is urgent: give asylum to Chen and his family – and to He Peirong as well. Bring them to safety in the United States, whatever it takes, on Hillary Clinton’s plane.
Reggie Littlejohn is president of Womens Rights Without Borders.