Mr. Chen, who escaped house arrest and fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, has a tentative deal with the Chinese government to study in the U.S. and bring his family. He has an invitation to come to New York University.
Mr. Biden said that when Mr. Chen went to the embassy, he wanted to be reunited with his family and remain in China — just not in his village. That was arranged, Mr. Biden said, but when Mr. Chen left the U.S. Embassy for a hospital, he had a change of mind and “we got to work.”
President Obama’s political adviser, David Axelrod, told ABC’s “This Week” that the U.S. is “making some progress” to help Mr. Chen “to achieve his goal” to come to the United States. He criticized presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for “blunderbussing around, trying to score political points when we’re in the middle of that process.”
While campaigning last week, Mr. Romney said the administration had “failed” to protect the blind Chinese dissident by factoring political considerations into the negotiations that ultimately led him to leave the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. The White House has said the president wasn’t concerned about the politics of the case.
Mr. Romney said if reports that the U.S. communicated implicit threats to Mr. Chen as he was deciding whether to leave the embassy are true, that represents a “dark day for freedom” and “shame for the Obama administration.”
Arizona Sen. John McCain said there were clearly some missteps in working with Mr. Chen, but the priority now should be getting him to the United States, while recognizing that those who helped Mr. Chen get to the U.S. Embassy may be in danger.
“People are being arrested. There’s other people who helped Mr. Chen get to the American Embassy. We’ve got to focus a lot of attention on them, as well. But first priority is to get him out of there and to the United States,” Mr. McCain said. He made his comments Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
On Sunday, Mr. Chen, his wife and two children were still inside a Beijing hospital where he is receiving treatment for injuries suffered during his bold escape two weeks ago from his rural farmhouse. U.S. officials spoke by phone to Mr. Chen and his wife at the hospital, a U.S. Embassy spokesman said.
A self-taught lawyer, Mr. Chen, 40, spent most of the last seven years in prison or under house arrest in what was seen as retribution by local Chinese authorities for his activism against forced abortions and other official misdeeds. His wife, daughter and mother were confined at home with him, enduring beatings, searches and other mistreatment.
His escape from house arrest to the fortress-like U.S. Embassy last week put Washington at the center of a sensitive human rights case.
After traveling to Beijing with the help of rights advocates, Mr. Chen contacted the embassy, and Ambassador Gary Locke sent a car to pick him up. During Mr. Chen’s anxious six days inside, Locke said he spent up to five hours a day with him, trying to reassure him. After Mr. Chen initially decided to remain in China and be reunited with his family at a Beijing hospital, Mr. Locke accompanied him and was photographed holding his hand as they entered the hospital.
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