THINGS HAVE GOTTEN a lot stickier in China. For one thing and predictably, according to the New York Times, after having promised to “guarantee his freedom and rights, and the U.S. made some efforts,” according to Chen’s wife, things have turned south.
Another development is that according to Chen, American officials, “not those from the embassy but others,” urged him to leave the U.S. embassy as quickly as possible. This information comes from an interview with the Daily Beast that hasn’t been widely picked up until today, the details emerging complicating the plot.
Melinda Liu of the DB has known Chen for over 10 years and talked to him from his hospital bed where he was being treated after leaving the U.S. embassy, with a foot injury that requires using a wheelchair or crutches to travel. Liu reports he was scared and crying when they spoke. There are practical issues in getting Chen out, however.
But in order to go abroad, Chen and his family need passports—and in order to apply for them, the family would have to go back to Shandong, where the provincial thugs are waiting. “If the U.S. can intervene, and if the Chinese central government can make a phone call, those passports can be ready in a day. It might require a diplomatic push,” said Fu hopefully. “Nothing would make me happier than to get Chen and his family onto Hillary’s plane out of there.”
And nothing would thrill Chen more, either. “Please try to contact the embassy to send someone over here. I need your help, I’m absolutely, absolutely ready to fly out on Hillary Clinton’s plane. Please tell the embassy what I’m saying, Meiyuan,” he pleaded from his hospital room, using my Chinese name. “I don’t know why the Americans didn’t answer my phone calls.”
The picture emerging from the diplomatic efforts by the U.S. are murky still, but they’re turning darker in details.
When U.S. officials escorted him out of the U.S. embassy shortly after 3 p.m. Wednesday, Chen thought he’d extracted a promise that at least one of them would stay with him at the hospital, he said. “Many Americans were with me while I checked into the hospital and doctors examined me. Lots of them,” he told me from his hospital bed, where he’s being treated for broken bones in one foot, an injury sustained when he fell after climbing a wall during his daring escape from house arrest late last month. “But when I was brought to the hospital room, they all left. I don’t know where they went.” The ordeal was all the more bewildering because Chen is blind and was hurt during his escape; he needs crutches or a wheelchair to move around.
Chen also tells the Daily Beast that once he was in the hospital, getting fed was a struggle and when he tried to call the U.S. embassy nobody answered.
Tweets from Zeng Jinyan, who is married to an activist friend of Chen, also paint a different portrait.
Channel 4 News interviewed Chen, the video and translation of the story is below. They report Chen never told the U.S. he wanted to leave the embassy, because he didn’t have enough information to make that decision. “He did not leave voluntarily,” said a Channel 4 News producer.
This column has been updated.