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Embassy Row: The Chen saga

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The chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is warning the State Department not to trust Chinese government promises to allow a blind dissident and his family to come to the United States.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen urged U.S. diplomats in Beijing to keep up the pressure on Chinese officials to release Chen Guangcheng from a hospital and transfer him and his family into U.S. custody.

"Only when Mr. Chen arrives on American soil and is granted political asylum will we know that this issue is resolved and his freedom and safety are assured," the Florida Republican said.

Mr. Chen on Sunday complained that Chinese officials are preventing him from meeting with U.S. diplomats to make arrangements for the transfer from Chaoyang Hospital, ringed by Chinese police, back to the U.S. Embassy.

Mr. Chen's plight created a diplomatic crisis last week when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner arrived in Beijing for talks with top-level officials. Mr. Chen had been granted refuge in the U.S. Embassy, and U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke was negotiating with Chinese authorities to transfer the dissident to a hospital for medical treatment.

Mr. Chen injured him foot when he escaped from house arrest in northeastern China last month. A self-taught lawyer, Mr. Chen had angered officials in Shandong province for exposing local abuses against women who violated China's forced abortion law on one-child families.

Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen criticized U.S. diplomats who allowed Mr. Chen to leave the embassy. Mr. Locke said Mr. Chen wanted to leave the diplomatic compound but demanded pledges from Chinese authorities that they would not retaliate against him or his family.

Before Mrs. Clinton departed Beijing, Chinese authorities announced that they would allow Mr. Chin, his wife and their daughter to travel to the United States, where he has been offered a fellowship to study at New York University.

However, Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen warned that U.S. officials "must not assume Beijing will actually allow this to happen."


Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:


• Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the United Nations, who addresses the Center for Strategic and International Studies and receives a distinguished leadership award from the Atlantic Council.

• Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie of China, who meets with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta.

• Prince Harry of Great Britain, who receives a distinguished leadership award from the Atlantic Council.

• A delegation from the European Parliament: Reinhard Butikofer of Germany, Maria Badia i Cutchet of Spain, Christian Ehler of Germany, James Elles of Britain, Ana Gomes of Portugal, Dan Jorgensen of Denmark, Syed Kamall of Britain, Godelieve Quisthoudt-Rowohl of Germany, Libor Roucek of the Czech Republic, Adrian Severin of Romania, Peter Skinner of Britain, and Rafal Trzaskowski of Poland. They discuss economic growth with top U.S. officials during Transatlantic Week.


• A delegation from the Japanese parliament: Keiichi Furuya, Koichiro Ichimura, Yoichi Kaneko, Ichiro Tsukada, Eriko Yamatani; and Chairman Shigeo Iizuka and Secretary-General Teruaki Masumoto of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea; and President Tsutomu Nishioka and Vice President Yoichi Shimada of the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea. They hold a 5 p.m. news conference at the National Press Club.

• Vice President Amado Boudou of Argentina and Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno Charme of Chile. They join U.S. officials in addressing the Conference on the Americas at the State Department.


• Khaled Huneifat, former mayor of Tafileh, Jordan, who speaks at a forum on Middle East democracy organized by the International Republican Institute.

• Amr Hamzawy, a member the Egyptian People's Assembly, who addresses the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.


• Gino Costa, Peru's former interior minister, who addresses the Inter-American Dialogue

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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