A Station for Everyone
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

U.S. Supports Chinese Activist's Bid To Study Abroad


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sounds confident today that a Chinese dissident may soon be allowed to study in the U.S. The case of Chen Guangcheng has taken many turns this week, and it could hardly have come at a worst time for the Obama administration. Chen escaped house arrest and sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing just days ahead of Clinton's arrival for high-level talks. Those talks were to include everything from trade to turmoil in Syria, but human rights had not been at the top of the agenda until Chen forced the issue. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports on the week's diplomatic balancing act.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: When she stood in public alongside Chinese officials, Clinton was careful on the issue of human rights, often toning down her prepared remarks. She only spoke about Chen's case in public today at a U.S. organized news conference.

SECRETARY HILLARY CLINTON: From the beginning, all of our efforts with Mr. Chen have been guided by his choices and our values.

KELEMEN: The U.S. Embassy took in Chen last week after the legal activist, who's blind, made a daring escape from house arrest in a provincial city hundreds of miles from Beijing. Initially, he told U.S. officials he wanted to stay in China and study law, but once he left U.S. protection and was taken to a hospital where he was reunited with his wife and two children, Chen had a change of heart.

CLINTON: I'm pleased that today our ambassador has spoken with him again. Our embassy staff and our doctor had a chance to meet with him, and he confirms that he and his family now want to go to the United States so he can pursue his studies.

KELEMEN: To do that, he needs China's approval and a passport. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Liu Weimin, told reporters that Chen can submit an application. He spoke through an interpreter.

LIU WEIMIN: (Through Translator) As a Chinese citizen, like other citizens in China, Chen Guangcheng can apply and go through relevant procedures.

KELEMEN: U.S. officials say that the Chinese government has indicated it will accept Chen's application, and the U.S. expects that to happen expeditiously. Though they wouldn't provide further details, they say the have high confidence in these arrangements. Even as this issue flared, Secretary Clinton and some 200 U.S. government officials took part, as scheduled, in what Clinton described as a very productive strategic and economic dialogue.

CLINTON: It is a testament to how far we've come in building a strong and resilient relationship and being able to have very candid, open discussions about issues where there is disagreement without it endangering the entire range of significant matters that we are working on together.

KELEMEN: Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo struck similar themes in his closing remarks at the talks. As for disagreements over human rights, he said, through an interpreter, that no country can claim to be perfect on that issue.

DAI BINGGUO: (Through Translator) Human rights issues should not be a disturbance for state-to-state relations. It should not be used as an excuse to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

KELEMEN: The two sides rattled off a long list of other issues covered in the high-level dialogue, from trade imbalances and currency values to Iran, Syria and the conflict between the two Sudans. Secretary Clinton also spent part of the day talking about educational exchanges and listening to American and Chinese students serenade her.


KELEMEN: It was a highly choreographed feel-good ceremony far removed from the difficult private negotiations over the fate of Chen Guangcheng. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Beijing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.