is a surprise only to the willingly blind. The accounts in today's NYT, including this one and this one, help to show why. This latest from CNN, though, also shows that Chen refuses to go quietly, and he is determined to put Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the American government on the spot just when they thought they had sidestepped this inconvenient problem.
It is clear that the U.S. wanted to squirm out of the Chen situation as quickly as possible so as to protect its shaky relationship with its creditor and cheap-labor-supplier China. In America's China policy, human rights rank well below the needs of the corporate and financial players who underwrite and steer our foreign policy. We all know this, although polite corporate media will not explicitly say it. Moreover, this has been true for many years, despite current Republican rants about the Obama administration's cowardly rush for an excuse to ditch dissident Chen. You can bet that a Republican administration would have been equally or more eager to find a quick way to dump Chen in the interest of business and finance, since both the Dems and the G.O.P work for the same employers.
Only an American policy team desperate to avoid a business-unfriendly fight would have believed (or pretended to believe) China's lame assurances that Chen and his family would not suffer further retaliation after his release back into Chinese hands. Chen himself seems to have panicked into accepting the deal, and now that reality is setting in he is, rightly, afraid and angry. Yes, he reportedly went along with it at first. But his current claim that Americans pressured him and failed to tell him all the facts appears to have some veracity. And in any case, when a panicked, injured, persecuted dissident shows up at an American embassy after a car chase, cooler heads have an obligation to assess the situation in the interest of justice.
To give you an idea of just how bad things had gotten for Chen by the time he reached the U.S. embassy, here is a short excerpt from one of the NYT pieces:
Although there were no legal charges pending against the couple, local officials had decided to turn their home into a makeshift prison with high walls, well-paid guards and sheets of metal to cover their windows. The local government’s goal was twofold: to prevent Mr. Chen from engaging in his legal work against coercive family-planning policies and to keep the couple cut off from the outside world. When the Chens broke the rules — by trying to sneak out messages or secretly detailing their mistreatment in a homemade video — they were viciously beaten.
For the U.S. to then turn around and concoct a flimsy deal to drop Chen like a hot potato is, tragically, business as usual. In the aftermath of the dirty deal, we see handily-choreographed stances on both sides: China demands an American apology for its temporary sheltering of Chen. And the U.S. grandly refuses to say it is sorry. Everybody gets to protect their own flank. Except Chen, that is, whose ability to generate international outrage and pressure may determine his fate.
Meanwhile, the bloody economic gears keep turning.