Friday, May 04, 2012

Does America's Beacon of Liberty Still Shine?

Does the United States still stand as a beacon of hope to the oppressed around the world? Human-rights lawyer and Chinese folk hero Chen Guangcheng thought we did. That’s why he risked his life to get to the United States Embassy in Beijing. But it was there he was betrayed for a few trillion shekels of yuan.

Human-rights activists around the world rejoiced when Chen—blind since birth—managed to escape house arrest and reach the perceived safety of the embassy. That relief turned to shock six days later, when the United States pressured Chen to leave, promising that they would stay with him in the hospital as he received treatment for injuries sustained during his escape.

Yet, Chen told CNN that once he reached the hospital the U.S. officials disappeared. Remember: he’s blind. The U.S. Embassy staff left an injured blind man who is an enemy of the state in the custody of his totalitarian oppressors. The State Department said today that the U.S. government has been in contact with Chen by phone and hopes to have a face-to-face meeting with him. So, they went from having him on American soil (the embassy) to not able to see him.

If only this was just incompetence. It seems so much worse.

Chai Ling, a former Tiananmen Square leader who escaped China in a cargo box, told me in an interview: “The U.S. Embassy wanted this ‘distraction’ to go away so they could get on with their business [of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to China].” In other words, trade and economic deals couldn’t be hampered by a human-rights nuisance. In Ling’s testimony before Congress today on behalf of her organization All Girls Allowed, which fights China’s one-child policy, she called America’s treatment of Chen “shameful.”

Read the rest of Kirsten Power's Daily Beast column right here. And pass it on.