Streetwise Professor

May 3, 2012

Disgraceful, Craven, and Cowardly

Filed under: Politics — The Professor @ 9:08 am

Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng is now pleading for asylum in the United States, literally hours after he left the US embassy in Beijing, under the terms of a stitched together deal which supposedly guaranteed his safety and the safety of his family.  His presence in the embassy was a huge embarrassment, especially in view of the impending visit of Hillary Clinton and Timmy! for talks with the Chinese leadership.  Reports strongly suggest that the US pressured Chen to leave, and at the very least, did nothing to push back on Chinese threats (delivered to Chen) to beat his wife to death.

So the United States government did something exactly analogous to turning over a fugitive slave, to avoid a conflict with the slaveowner, or in response to the slaveowner’s threat to whip the slave’s wife to death.

This is disgraceful, craven, and cowardly

Obama claims that human rights are raised at every meeting with the Chinese.  I can imagine the conversation now: Obama: “You need to respect human rights.” Chinese official: “Mind your own business.” Obama: “Now we have that out of the way . . . ”

Deeds speak far louder than words.  The immediate and panicked capitulation shows clearly that Obama has no real interest in human rights, and is unwilling to risk the slightest displeasure from the Chinese.  Not that he has succeeded in the latter: the Chinese are shrilly demanding an apology for us letting Chen step onto embassy grounds.

This is all a piece with Obama’s overall policy.  He is fighting the Magnitsky Act tooth and nail.  Doesn’t want to upset the Reset, dontcha know.  He has thrown human rights under the bus everywhere, from China to Russia to Iran to the Middle East, and has exactly nothing to show for it in return.

With respect to Chen in particular, what did the US gain for its unseemly capitulation?  What is to be gained from such a craven abandonment of principle? What great achievements were expected from Hillary’s visit to China?  What important agreements were being negotiated? Will China agree to do anything regarding North Korea, or South Sudan, or Syria, or Iran?

Yeah, right.

Even if deals were on the table, the Chinese behavior tells you what deals with them are worth.  Within hours-hours-of the Chinese assurances that he would be treated well, Chen was obviously in fear for his life, and the lives of his family and friends. A deal is a deal until it is not convenient for them.  Then it is as if it never happened.

One more thing.  When dealing with brutal authoritarian regimes, caving only invites future tests.  Expect a confrontation of some sort soon, perhaps in the South China Sea.

The United States government-and this administration in particular-abandoned a brave man and his family to the decidedly not tender mercies of a police state, and for nothing.  It revealed itself to be unprincipled, weak and panicky. And for this it-we-will reap what it has sown.


Update: This CNN interview with Chen is a must read:

Q: U.S. officials said you looked optimistic when you walked out of the embassy, what happened?

A: At the time I didn’t have a lot of information. I wasn’t allowed to call my friends from inside the embassy. I couldn’t keep up with news so I didn’t know a lot of things that were happening.

Q: What prompted your change of heart?

A: The embassy kept lobbying me to leave and promised to have people stay with me in the hospital. But this afternoon as soon as I checked into the hospital room, I noticed they were all gone.

Q: Has the U.S. disappointed you?

A: I’m very disappointed at the U.S. government.

Q: Why?

A: I don’t think (U.S. officials) protected human rights in this case.

Q: What would you say to U.S. President Obama?

A: I would like to say to (President Obama): Please do everything you can to get our whole family out.

The administration contests this characterization.  Who are you going to believe?  Since Chen would never have left unless he was highly confident that his security, and that of his wife, would be protected, his story seems much more plausible.  In which case, the government’s behavior is even worse than the title indicates, because it is compounding its original sin by covering its own rear by calling the man it betrayed a liar.

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  1. “It is true that the normal condition of mankind is tyranny and misery.”

    Just going back to normal, no big deal.

    Comment by Ivan — May 3, 2012 @ 12:59 pm

  2. Meanwhile, more news of Mr Putin’s favourite oil company:

    “Assuming Gunvor was not just incompetent, that leaves the second, less benign, view: that Gunvor knew it was driving the price down and did so repeatedly. How, though, can a company that sells oil profit from a lower price?”

    Fascinating stuff.

    Comment by Green as Grass — May 3, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

  3. Was just reading that, Green. Thinking about it. Will comment on it later.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — May 3, 2012 @ 3:37 pm

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