The deal between the U.S. and China that secured blind activist the freedom to remain safely in China has apparently fallen apart. Chen was released from the U.S. embassy in Beijing Wednesday morning but only hours later expressed doubts about the arrangement and insisted he wanted out of China. Per the agreement, Chen was to be sent to a “safe environment and allowed to attend a university where he will be free of legal harassment.” The deal also afforded American diplomats the right to check in on Chen to see that he was being treated fairly. But statements made afterward reveal that China was furious with the U.S.’s involvement in the human rights matter.
The Chinese government issued a blistering statement to domestic news media saying the role the United States had played in the matter “is totally unacceptable to China.” The Foreign Ministry statement insisted that Washington offer an apology and punish officials involved in taking Mr. Chen into American protection.
Chen told the Associated Press that he was effectively coerced into the deal. That charge has taken U.S. officials by surprise. Chen said that while under American protection, officials told him that Chinese authorities said his wife would be beaten to death unless he left the embassy. Chen’s attorney Teng Biao echoed his sentiment: “He felt his safety is threatened. He feels pressure now. In fact, from his language, I can tell that the decision to leave the embassy was not 100 percent his idea.”
But U.S. officials disputed that assessment:
“At no time did any U.S. official speak to Chen about physical or legal threats to his wife and children, nor did Chinese officials make any such threats to us,” Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. “U.S. interlocutors did make clear that if Chen elected to stay in the embassy, Chinese officials had indicated to us that his family would be returned to Shandong, and they would lose their opportunity to negotiate for reunification.”
Chen is also reportedly bothered by a lack of U.S. protection at the hospital. He told the Daily Beast’s Melinda Liu, “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.”