Activist Accuses Chinese Police of Blocking Access to U.S. Diplomats

Posted May 3rd, 2012 at 12:40 pm (UTC-5)
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The blind Chinese human rights activist at the center of a festering diplomatic standoff between Beijing and Washington said Thursday he believes Chinese authorities are blocking U.S. officials from contacting him in a Beijing hospital.

Activist Chen Guangcheng made the accusation just hours after leaving the protection of the U.S. embassy to get medical treatment for a broken foot. He suffered the injury April 22, while making a dramatic escape from house arrest.

Neither U.S. nor Chinese officials have commented on the accusation. Earlier Thursday, U.S. authorities acknowledged that Chen had reversed himself and now wants to leave China with his family,

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said U.S. officials had discussed options with Chen. But it was not clear whether those talks occurred before or after Chen’s complaint to Western reporters.

Nuland spoke as Chinese President Hu Jintao and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton opened annual talks in Beijing on economic and security matters. Neither official directly mentioned the diplomatic furor in opening remarks, but Mr. Hu called on both governments to find common ground and to respect each other’s differences.

“Both sides must learn to respect each other, grasp the common ground and make the cake of common interest bigger, treat differences appropriately, respect and care for each others concerns, properly resolve existing disputes through dialogue and communication and strengthen mutual understanding to avoid impacting the overall state of the Sino-U.S. relationship.”

Clinton used her opening remarks to emphasize human rights, but stopped short of any direct reference to the standoff over Chen.

“As part of our dialogue, the United States raises the importance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, because we believe all governments have to answer to our citizens’ aspirations for dignity and the rule of law and that no nation can or should deny those rights.”

U.S. officials have said they will do what they can to help Chen. But American diplomats have denied reports that he was pressured into leaving the embassy Wednesday after Chinese guarantees that he would be allowed a broad range of freedoms if he left the embassy and stayed in his homeland.

Ambassador Gary Locke said Chen was “eager and excited” to leave the embassy to be reunited with his family.

The deal began to unravel shortly after Chen’s departure from the U.S. facility, when a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman called for a formal U.S. apology for “unacceptable (U.S.) interference in its domestic affairs.”

Meanwhile, U.S. specialist on China Jerome Cohen — a friend of Chen — says he is unaware of the specific nature of the threats Chen reportedly received after leaving the U.S. embassy. He told VOA the last time they talked, Chen was excited about the idea of staying in China and reuniting with his family.

Chen is a lawyer and human rights activist who has been blind since childhood. He was given a four-year prison sentence in 2006 for exposing abuses under China’s forced abortion policy aimed at population control. He had been under house arrest since 2010, before escaping on April 22.

He posted an Internet video last week saying he, his wife, and young daughter were abused during his house arrest. He also called on Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to investigate human rights abuses in China.