Hillary Clinton; HARD CHOICES: Book Analysis. Chapter 5. BEIJING: THE DISSIDENT. The Hard Choice: Humanitarian Acts vs. Real Politik.


Cui Tiankai

Cui Tiankai

On April 25th Hillary got a call that the blind activist, Chen Guangchen (for Chen’s take on this read.) had escaped home confinement in his native province of Shandung. Further he had journeyed to Beijing with the help of sympathizers in hopes of gaining refuge in the American Embassy.  Chen was known throughout China as the blind, barefoot lawyer who advocated for human rights.  He was self taught and whose most recent endeavor was to file a class action law suit in behalf of people victimized by government repression for forced abortions, forced sterilization and enforcement of the one child policy by economic and other means. The Chinese government reacted to this by sentencing him to jail and later home confinement. He was a cause célèbre  in China.  Now he was seeking asylum in the Embassy.

This request was made at a time when he was on the run from the police with a broken foot and  in hiding somewhere in Beijing outside the Embassy.

How the Chinese government would react to a grant of asylum to a humanitarian hero was unknown.

This was compounded by the fact the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue was scheduled with Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, Hillary and their Chinese   opposites for the discussion of the problems of the Islands in the South China Sea, North Korea and other issues including economic ones  like  intellectual property protection and currency values.  Many months of planning and preparation had gone into the forthcoming discussions.

If the U.S. extended asylum to Chen how would the Chinese react? They could cancel the Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

Hillary decided to give Chen asylum and to negotiate his fate with the Chinese authorities. Negotiations were tense as the U.S. had often criticized China over human rights to their chagrin and this case could only bring matters to a boiling   point. The Chinese viewed the U.S. as meddling in China’s internal affairs over these issues and they were not matters for discussion by outsiders.

However Chen was well known both inside China and to the World so whatever happened to Chen would get worldwide publicity. Therefore the Chinese were willing to negotiate even after we gave asylum to a man who was an escaped criminal in their eyes.

Chen himself was conflicted as to what he wanted to do. At first the principal Chinese  negotiator Cui Tiankai agreed that Chen would be allowed to study law in Shanghai for two years and then travel to the U.S. to study at NYU on a fellowship.   However Chen first agreed to this resolution and then changed his mind saying he wanted to come to the U.S. right away fearing the Chinese government would renege of the agreement once the world spotlight was turned off.

Hillary and her aides renegotiated the terms to the bemused Cui Tiankai. The  Chinese authorities permitted Chen to come directly  the United States to study at NYU.

The agreement was reached without jeopardizing the Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

Hillary believes she struck a blow for human rights while saving the conference on major U.S. interests.

The Chinese probably saw it as a way to rid themselves of a sympathetic and troublesome dissident who had the ability to draw World attention to their internal policies.

While it is always good to standup for humanitarian principles the interests of the United States and its people should come first. Thus the strategic and economic interests of the U.S. should have been paramount in this case because they affect millions of people.

Hillary was able along with her subordinates to skillfully and adroitly solve the humanitarian issue without scuttling the Strategic and Economic  Dialogue. Whether this incident colored the discussions she doesn’t say other than in a cursory manner to state  that much progress was made without going into specifics.

She says that the United State’s policy is to create a state of shared prosperity and responsibility with China for peace and security and the only way to do this is though greater openness and freedom.  Internal issues like  the  treatment of Tibet, the Uighur Muslims, internet freedom, the suppression of activists like Chen  are counter to humanitarian principles  and China should deal with them in a transparent manner respectful to the rights of the entities and people involved. Internationally it should work though international institutions to solve problems and conflicts like those in the South China Sea.

At present  Chen  is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Witherspoon Institute which opposes abortion and gay marriage. Cui Tiankai is the Chinese Ambassador to the United States and Hillary is denying she is running for President.