My cherished interlocutors here seem to think that the vast right wing conspiracy includes everyone but themselves. I noted the obvious: the initial deal which American diplomats brokered on behalf of Chen Guangcheng was a shameful bungle. Was this a cheap rightwing shot on my part?
Here is another note from the VRWC, Los Angeles Times unit:
That U.S. officials bungled the rescue of blind dissident Chen Guangcheng from Chinese repression of his human rights work seems undisputed. But the diplomatic train wreck was also an international embarrassment for China, which may be why Beijing has so swiftly agreed to let Chen go abroad "to study."
Here is the New York Times:
China and the United States reached a deal Friday that calls for the dissident Chen Guangcheng to travel to the United States with his family, in what appeared to be a resolution to an eight-day diplomatic crisis that had threatened to strain the relationship between the two countries and left the Obama administration open to attacks from human rights activists and political opponents at home…
But the arrangement was unlikely to silence a fusillade of accusations that the Obama administration had bungled Mr. Chen's case by essentially handing him over to the Chinese authorities earlier this week, without ironclad assurances that he would be safe.
It wasn't just political opponents who objected to the initial deal. It was human rights activists as well and, I might add, Mr. Chen.
Better yet is how the Economist put it:
The incident raises three questions. Most immediately, did America's best diplomats let a brave man down? With Mr Chen out of their care, they now have little bargaining power. If they were duped by their Chinese counterparts, or too ready to accept their assurances, they will be taken as fools. If they struck a deal in haste, calculating that currencies and tariffs should eclipse the rights of an inconvenient blind man, they will be taken as knaves.
Fools or knaves are the only available choices but I note that they aren't mutually exclusive. The original deal the Embassy brokered, or thought it brokered, would have sent Mr. Chen back into the shark pool with only vague assurances that he would be treated fairly.
The Washington Post, in a fit of wishful fantasy, thought this was a breakthrough.
THE DEAL UNDER which Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng left the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on Wednesday was bold, risky and potentially groundbreaking for human rights in China. It could also prove disastrous…
By early Wednesday, the diplomats believed they had brokered a bargain under which Mr. Chen would be reunited with his family and allowed to attend law school in another city. Were it to follow through on those promises, the regime would break with a pattern of relentlessly hounding dissidents and human rights activists, a number of whom have been illegally confined to their homes.
If the diplomats believed what the Post says they believed, and what the Post obviously takes seriously, then they are indeed fools. From the Christian Science Monitor:
[Chen's] wife, Yuan Weijing, was detained by police when her husband's escape was discovered, and tied to a chair without food or drink for two days, Chen told reporters from the hospital where he is now undergoing medical tests and treatment for a broken foot suffered during his escape…
He Peirong, a family friend who drove Chen from his hometown to Beijing, was arrested by police in the southern city of Nanjing, where she lives, and held for several days before being allowed to go home. She has since posted a message on her Twitter account saying the police have forbidden her to talk to reporters.
Jiang Tianyong, a lawyer who tried to visit Chen in hospital on Thursday evening, was taken away by police and returned home at 3:00 a.m. on Friday morning after having been beaten up so badly that he had lost his hearing in one ear, his wife said in a post on Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media platform.
Guo Yushan, an NGO activist who also helped Chen stay out of police hands between his escape and his arrival at the US Embassy, was held by police for two days before being freed.
That is what was happening as American diplomats assured Mr. Chen
that they would carefully monitor the activist's fate, to ensure that he was no longer persecuted.
It is no wonder that Mr. Chen had second thoughts when the last American official left his hospital room and he realized that he was all alone.
It does look like Mr. Chen and his family will be allowed to leave China. I can't help noting this comment on my last post, unintentionally hilarious and grim at the same time:
The reports I'm seeing indicate Chen and his family will face no problems leaving China KB. This in a report posted at the Huffington Post: At a Foreign Ministry briefing, spokesman Liu Weimin also confirmed that Chen faces no pending criminal charges, indirectly acknowledging that the house arrest he and his family endured the past 20 months in their rural home was illegal. "According to Chinese laws, he is a regular citizen. He can absolutely go through regular formalities by normal means," Liu said.
No trouble at all for this regular citizen who has been subject to illegal house arrest for 20 months. Just make sure to pack enough sunscreen! That, and hope that no criminal charges suddenly appear or someone you care deeply about suddenly disappears.
The Washington Post, perhaps too far in not to double down, has this:
Prompted by Mr. Chen, U.S. diplomats managed to win Beijing's agreement to an unprecedented deal that would have allowed him to move to the city of Tianjin with his family and to enroll at a university.
The bargain fell apart not because of U.S. bungling or even Chinese backtracking but largely because Mr. Chen changed his mind once he left the embassy. His lawyer and other supporters told him his scheme was unworkable. While they may be right, it's unfortunate that the authorities' promises, which could have set a precedent for the treatment of dissidents, were never put to the test.
Yeah, it's unfortunate that the "the authorities' promises were never put to the test." It would also be rather unfortunate for Mr. Chen and his family and his friends and allies if those promises had been put the test. The outcome would not be hard to guess.
Gambling with dozens of lives on the basis of wishful thinking didn't fail because the U.S. bungled; it was the bungle. That the U.S. apparently brokered a more realistic and responsible deal after Mr. Chen had second thoughts doesn't change that fact. That seems indisputable to almost everyone.