If Sino-American tension was high last week, it’s now reached fever pitch with dissident Chen Guangchen‘s story changing by the hour. Chen escaped from house arrest and was secretly harbored in the U.S. Embassy for six days. Yesterday, U.S. officials admitted Chen was at the Embassy and let him go, they say, because he said he wanted to join his family and move to another part of China.
But the episode didn’t end there. Later in the day, he told reporters that the Americans had pressured him to leave. His story clashed with the American version. Evan Osnos, who is in Beijing, reported what he knows of the convolutions in the New Yorker.
Complicating all of this even further, Hillary Clinton and Timothy Geithner are in China to negotiate political, military and economical issues. The U.S. doesn’t want to jeopardize its agreements with China, but the Bo Xilai affair and now the Chen entanglement threaten to sabotage the negotiations and chill, if not ice, any goodwill there might have been between the two countries.
And we’re leaving for China in two days! In 2004, we arrived in a shaken Barcelona the day after the March 11 terrorist bombings of the Madrid commuter train station. We were away on 9/11, and last year Hurricane Irene devastated the countryside days before our return. Just saying … It’s an interesting time to visit China.
We’ll visit a friend who’s in the State Department and is stationed in Beijing, but I doubt I’ll learn much, as Big Brother is always listening, if not watching. I’m sure it will be very strange to self-censor what I read and what I write.
Correction: Chen stayed at the American Embassy for six days, not the number originally posted.