Wednesday, May 2, 2012
EXPRESS NEWS: CHEN HAS LEFT US EMBASSY
Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng leaves US Embassy in Beijing By NBC News, msnbc.com staff and news services A blind Chinese legal activist at the center of a diplomatic tussle between Washington and Beijing left the U.S. Embassy Wednesday to receive medical care in Beijing and be reunited with this family. China demanded an apology from Washington over Chen Guangcheng's stay at the U.S. Embassy, according to the government's news service Xinhua. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in China earlier in the day for top-level talks that risk being upstaged by the drama over Chen whose flight to the U.S. Embassy had not been confirmed by either China or the United States until now. "Chen Guangcheng has arrived at a medical facility in Beijing where he will receive medical treatment and be reunited with his family," a senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, told Reuters. The official did not give additional details on Chen's whereabouts or condition. Xinhua reported that Chen left the U.S. Embassy "of his own volition" after staying there for six days. U.S. officials were trying to protect Chen even after he left the embassy, according to an email seen by NBC News. U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke was with Chen at Chaoyang Hospital in Beijing, and Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell had guaranteed the activist his freedom, the emails said. China's Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, said it was extremely unhappy the embassy had taken Chen in. "It must be pointed out that the United States Embassy took the Chinese citizen Chen Guangcheng into the embassy in an irregular manner, and China expresses its strong dissatisfaction over this," ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in a statement carried by Xinhua. "The U.S. method was interference in Chinese domestic affairs, and this is totally unacceptable to China. China demands that the United States apologize over this, thoroughly investigate this incident, punish those who are responsible, and give assurances that such incidents will not recur." The statements were the first official comments by either government on Chen's case since his supporters said last Friday that he had escaped 20 months of house arrest and gone into U.S. government protection. Blind dissident’s case a ‘hot potato’ for US-China Chen ran afoul of local government officials for exposing forced abortions and other abuses, and his dogged pursuit of justice and mistreatment by authorities brought him attention from the U.S. and foreign governments and earned him supporters among many ordinary Chinese. Chen's plight has overshadowed the Strategic and Economic Dialogue due to begin on Thursday. The United States hopes the talks will encourage greater Chinese cooperation on trade as well over Iran, Syria, North Korea and other international disputes. Relations could easily go awry, especially with the ruling Communist Party wrestling with a leadership scandal and a looming power succession. More on Chen: Video reveals blind Chinese activist's plight "Of course, as the U.S. must realize, this does quite a lot of harm to China-U.S. relations," Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing said of Chen's flight into U.S. protection. "In this situation, both sides want to restrict the impact of this (Chen) incident. But whether they can find a way to resolve the problem relatively quickly depends on how the dialogue and discussions go," Shi added. NBC News, msnbc.com staff, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.