Thursday, May 03, 2012

Chen Guancheng: No Easy Choices - Updated 5/5/12

A blind activist shows up at the US Embassy in Beijing. He and his family are being threatened. The movie version is that the brave diplomats spirit him out in the dark of night, lying on the floor of the back seat of the limousine, and fly him to safety.

The reality is otherwise. Embassies represent an agreement with the host country not to mess with internal issues. This is an especially sensitive consideration when there are big differences between the countries' internal policies. An embassy can't set up as dissident central, in open opposition to the host country's policies.

That means that when someone like Chen Guancheng comes to the US Embassy, it's a problem for all concerned. The details of his arrival, while not all available, make for even more of a problem. His human rights are clearly being threatened, and his life and family may be in danger. What any person would want is for that danger to be removed. The problem is how to do it.

The movie version is not available. Sorry, it just isn't under international law and the conventions that apply to embassies. And, in any case, Chen didn't bring his family with him, so they would be left to face the authorities, probably in more danger than they are now.

So, no, Mitt Romney, and no, hardline leftist human rights activists, it's not that President Obama and/or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are miserable people, suborning human rights to the financial ties to China. I suspect that the best people in the State Department and White House are trying to figure out the path to the best outcome. The incident isn't over. Stay tuned.

I'm not at all a China expert, so I can't speak to the politics involved. Here's some commentary that takes the realities into account from people who know more about China than I do.

Debacle in Beijing

Blame China, not the U.S., for the Plight of Chen Guangcheng

the Ai precedent

Update (5/5/12): The situation seems to be in the process of resolution, and there seems to be a good chance that the Chen family will be allowed to go to the United States. James Joyner links some articles worth reading in full, and I particularly emphasize the article by Max Fischer, which says, in effect, that Chen seems to have believed the movie version.

And it's not over yet.

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