Presidential candidate and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney lambasted the Obama administration over its handling of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng. Chen, who had long been held under house arrest by the Chinese communist government because of his opposition to forced abortion, sought safety this week at the U.S. embassy in Beijing. After hours of consultations with American diplomats, he was taken to a local hospital. His family is now under police guard, while Chen is seeking asylum for himself and his family. Romney said that American diplomats had "failed" to protect Chen adequately from the communist government.
While speaking at a campaign stump in Virginia, Romney cited what he called "disturbing" and "troubling" reports about Chen and his welfare. He said that U.S. officials had "failed to put in place the kind of verifiable measures needed" to protect Chen and his family. So far, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - who is in Beijing for high-level bilateral negotiations - has not spoken about Chen. Neither has Obama.
In opening remarks delivered in Beijing, Clinton spoke of the issues to be discussed by the two superpowers during her visit. These included the ever-growing economic and financial interdependence of China and the U.S., as well as their differences over such issues as Syria and North Korea. Alluding to human rights, she said "Our countries are addressing everything from cyber security to the changes and reforms going on in Burma to piracy and so much else, because we know that we are working to better the lives of our people and a better future for all humanity. Now of course, as part of our dialogue, the United States raises the importance of human rights and fundamental freedoms because we believe that all governments do have to answer to citizens’ aspirations for dignity and the rule of law, and that no nation can or should deny those rights." .."."
'The reports are, if they are accurate, that 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," Romney said. "If these reports are true, this is a dark day for freedom, and it's a day of shame for the Obama administration." These were the first comments has made about Chen since the dissident left the U.S. embassy on May 3 with American diplomats in tow. The Obama administration insists that it had hashed out an agreement with Chinese authorities to allow him to remain in country without fear of harassment.
Chen later told reporters and human rights activities that he left the American embassy after Chinese authorities had threatened his family. The U.S. says that he was not pressured to leave the embassy. Chen is seeking asylum in the U.S. and wants to leave China with Secretary Clinton. So far, the Obama administration has not said whether Chen will be granted asylum, even while it discarded Republican criticism. "I can assure you that the president is not concerned about political back-and-forth on this issue," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters on May 3.
Speaking in Virginia, Romney did not say how he would have handled the Chen controversy. He did applaud the fact that people all over the world recognize the United States and its embassies as a "place of freedom." Suggesting that the Obama administration should have been more forthcoming with aid to Chen, Romney said "We should defend (freedom) when it's under attack."