State Dept: Chinese Officials ‘Indicated’ Activist Would Not See His Family Again If He Stayed at U.S. Embassy

By Penny Starr | May 2, 2012 | 5:22 PM EDT

This undated photo provided by the China Aid Association shows blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangchen in Shandong province, China. Chen, a well-known dissident who angered authorities in rural China by exposing forced abortions, made a surprise escape from house arrest on April 22, 2012, into what activists say is the protection of U.S. diplomats in Beijing. (AP Photo/

( – As news spread around the globe that blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng had left the sanctuary of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, the State Department in Washington, D.C. issued a statement that said Chinese officials “indicated to us” that if Chen remained in U.S. custody, his family would not be able to “negotiate for reunification.”

Victoria Nuland, spokeswoman for the State Department, released the following statement to the media on Wednesday:

“At no time did any US official speak to Chen about physical or legal threats to his wife and children. Nor did Chinese officials make any such threats to us.

“U.S. interlocutors did make clear that if Chen elected to stay in the Embassy, Chinese officials had indicated to us that his family would be returned to Shandong, and they would lose their opportunity to negotiate for  reunification.

“And at no point during his time in the Embassy did Chen ever request political asylum in the U.S.  At every opportunity, he expressed his desire to stay in China, reunify with his family, continue his education and work for reform in his country.

“All our diplomacy was directed at putting him in the best possible position to achieve his objectives.”

Chen, an attorney and activist who has helped defend Chinese women who have been forced to have abortions and sterilizations under China’s one-child population control policy, was taken to a Beijing hospital from the U.S. Embassy, according to news reports.

Hours before Nuland’s comments, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is in Beijing with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for economic talks with Chinese officials, issued her own statement, saying she was “pleased that we were able to facilitate Chen Guangcheng’s stay and departure from the U.S. embassy in a way that reflected his choices and our values. I was glad to have the chance to speak with him today and to congratulate him on being reunited with his wife and children.”

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

"Mr. Chen has a number of understandings with the Chinese government about his future, including the opportunity to pursue higher education in a safe environment,” Clinton’s statement said. “Making these commitments a reality is the next crucial task.”

“The United States government and the American people are committed to remaining engaged with Mr. Chen and his family in the days, weeks, and years ahead,” Clinton said.

The Los Angeles Times reported that a close friend of Chen, Beijing activist Zeng Jinyan, said the deal with U.S. officials to keep the dissident in China was forced on him to avoid harm to his family and supporters.

Zeng said she was told by Chen’s wife that if her husband did not leave the embassy, she and her children would be forced to return to their village, where thugs armed with sticks were waiting to beat them to death, according to the Times.

Meanwhile, Rep. Chris Smith (R-Smith), who is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of its Africa, Global Health and Human Rights Subcommittee, and chairman of the Congressional Executive Commission on China, told on Tuesday that the Obama administration has “almost no human rights policy vis-a-vis China.”

Smith, who has scheduled an emergency hearing on the Chen matter for Thursday, May 3,  said the Obama administration should make China’s human rights abuses a top priority.

“If we don’t stand for human rights, what do we stand for – another trade deal with a gulag state, and with a government that is a dictatorship?” Smith told “We should be shouting from the rooftops our outrage that women are being so horrifically treated by China, and yet there’s been nothing.”