For the second time in three days, American officials thought they had an agreement, with firm guarantees, from the Chinese side. The original deal reached with Chinese officials fell apart within hours of being announced late Wednesday, after U.S. diplomats were barred the next day from visiting Chen in Beijing’s Chaoyang hospital, where he was taken after leaving the protected confines of the U.S. Embassy compound. U.S. diplomats, as well as Chen, believed they were promised regular and easy access to him.
The new agreement also leaves significant obstacles in place, and numerous questions are left unanswered.
Many supporters who have tried to visit Chen at the hospital were roughly turned away, with some saying they were severely beaten by plainclothes police. Also on Friday, some of China’s state-controlled newspapers began viciously attacking Chen and U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke, who helped Chen enter the embassy on April 26 after his dramatic escape from de facto house arrest in his village in Shandong province. In addition, some of Chen’s allies and associates remained under house arrest.
In a news conference Friday, the top Foreign Ministry official in charge of U.S. affairs, Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai, twice refused to discuss Chen’s case or even acknowledge a deal on the dissident’s future, even though Cui was said to be the lead official involved in talks.
Those actions and others appeared to undercut the American view that the latest deal is built on mutual respect, and they raised skepticism over whether it could be fully implemented.
“We’re hopeful but not reassured by the latest deal emerging for Chen Guangcheng,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific deputy director. “The fate of Chen and his family is far from certain, given that they are not yet safe and free.”
“The disparity between high-level assurances and the reality on the ground is stark,” Baber said. “While the Chinese and the U.S. negotiated on Chen and his family, Chinese authorities were targeting his friends and supporters — including beating Jiang Tianyong, a lawyer who tried to visit Chen” in the hospital.
Jiang, a human rights lawyer, described in an interview how he went to Chaoyang hospital to try to see Chen around 6 p.m. Thursday but was immediately hustled into an unmarked car by about 10 plainclothes officers from Beijing’s Haidan district public security branch.