Flesh and bones
Jerome Cohen, an American lawyer and friend of Chen Guangcheng, appeared on Amanpour today. He has been in contact with the Chinese dissident ever since his escape from house arrest, advising him on how best to secure his freedom and safety with the help of U.S. authorities.
According to Cohen, “Chen’s first choice was to stay in China…to study law, to take part in China’s further legal development, and to have free communication.” Cohen quoted him as saying, “I want simply the rights of every other Chinese citizen.”
At first, it seemed that the Chinese had agreed to let Chen remain in the country. Said Cohen, “We know the bare bones of the agreement. How flesh would be put on those bones remains to be seen.”
Cohen added, “China is evolving. This is the twenty-first century. The political system lags behind the rest of China’s progress. The time is right for legal progress.”
Everything changed when he got to the hospital
However, Chen appeared to have a change of heart after he left the protection of the U.S. embassy in Beijing. He questioned his safety and that of his family, and appealed to the U.S. to help them leave the country.
“Everything changed when he got to the hospital, “said Cohen. Exhausted by their efforts to secure his future, embassy and state department officials went home to sleep. Chen’s doctors examined him and they left him, as well.
“All of a sudden,” said Cohen, “his (human) rights companions…got a hold of him. And they said…don’t do this, you’re just totally unrealistic, it will never work.”
Cohen added, “At the same time the media were getting through to him and his wife, who had encouraged him to take this deal (with the Chinese government) and leave the embassy and reunite the family – she changed her mind when her friends were getting a hold of her. And so he’s in a very fragile emotional state.”
The most humane appearance possible
Still, Cohen remains optimistic. “One thing we share with the Chinese is the belief you must change a vice into a virtue. This debacle may leave him (Chen) better off if he really wants to come to the United States.”
Said Cohen, “He’s now reunited with his family, he wouldn’t have been had he stayed in the embassy, and the whole world is watching.” He said of Chinese leaders, “They’re practical people. They’re going to want to get rid of him and his family in the most humane appearance possible.”
Cohen’s assessment was later echoed by Madeleine Albright, also a guest on Amanpour today.
The first female Secretary of State, and the author of Prague Winter, she had her own dealings with China’s rulers when she served in President Bill Clinton’s cabinet. Like Cohen, she believes the Chinese ultimately will decide to let Chen leave.
“I think they (the Chinese leaders) do want to work something out,” said Secretary Albright. “The question is what is the best way, what is the timing and then what are the arrangements.”
She added, “They know, and we know, that we will always raise human rights.”