Hillary Clinton to visit China amid tension over escaped activist
(BDCi) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to leave Monday night for China on a trip that is likely to be fraught with diplomatic tension over the status of escaped Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, who is reportedly being sheltered at the U.S. Embassy.
Chen, a blind self-taught lawyer, evaded guards who had kept him under house arrest for more than 18 months in a small eastern village and made his way to Beijing on April 22, friends and fellow activists said last week.
Once in the capital, Chen moved from one safe house to another before finding refuge at the U.S. Embassy, according to Hu Jia, a fellow activist and one of the few people who has said he has seen Chen since he arrived in Beijing.
The situation presents an extraordinary test for the Obama administration’s approach to relations with China, creating a strain between upholding human rights and maintaining steady ties with Beijing.
Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are scheduled to hold talks with Chinese officials in Beijing starting Thursday about strategic and economic issues. But the Chen affair could overshadow the economic talking points.
Chen, 40, rose to fame in the late 1990s thanks to his legal advocacy for what he called victims of abusive practices, such as alleged forced abortions, by China’s family-planning officials.
A local court sentenced Chen to four years and three months in prison in 2006 on charges of damaging property and “organizing a mob to disturb traffic” in a protest, charges that his supporters called preposterous.
Since September 2010 release from prison, he had been confined to his home along with his wife, mother and daughter.
By: Natania Levine
30 April 2012
10:47 a.m P.D.T