Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has called on China to protect human rights amid a dispute over the status of a blind dissident who has appealed to Washington for help.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton cautioned China to protect human rights Thursday, in remarks that rejected Beijing's criticism of the U.S. for getting involved in the case of a blind dissident whose fate overshadowed the opening of annual talks between the powerful countries.
Clinton told the opening of annual talks with China on foreign policy and economic issues that the U.S. believes "all governments have to answer our citizens' aspirations for dignity and the rule of law and that no nation can or should deny those rights."
Clinton's comments Thursday came after a blind Chinese dissident who took refuge in the U.S. Embassy appealed to Washington for more help. He said later from his hospital room in Beijing that he fears for his family's safety unless they are all spirited abroad.
Her comments came as the dissident, Chen Guangcheng, pleaded for more help from Washington. The blind, self-taught lawyer took refuge in the U.S. Embassy after escaping house arrest, but left Wednesday to get treatment for a leg injury at a Beijing hospital. He initially said he had been assured that he would be safe in China, but hours later he said he fears for his family's safety unless they are all spirited abroad.
China already demanded an apology from the U.S. even before Chen balked at a deal in which he would remain in his homeland. Now that he wants to leave, the case could overshadow talks in which Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are to discuss foreign policy and economic issues with their Chinese counterparts.
ADDS U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT LEGAL ADVISOR HAROLD KOH AT LEFT In this photo released by the US Embassy Beijing Press Office, blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng is wheeled into a hospital by U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke, right, and an unidentified official at left, in Beijing Wednesday May 2, 2012. At left is U.S. State Department Legal Advisor Harold Koh.
China's President Hu Jintao said at the opening of the talks that China and the United States "must know how to respect each other" even if they disagree.
U.S. officials verified that account. But they adamantly denied his contention that one American diplomat had warned him of a threat from the Chinese that his wife would be beaten to death if he did not get out of the embassy. They also denied his claim that American officials have left the hospital where he is being treated for a leg injury suffered in his escape.
"I think we'd like to rest in a place outside of China," Chen told the AP, appealing again for help from Washington. "Help my family and me leave safely."
"There were U.S. officials in the building," the spokesman told reporters. "I believe some of his medical team was in fact with him at the hospital." He said U.S. officials would continue visiting Chen while he was there.
It is not clear how the U.S. could be party to an agreement on Chen's safety inside China when it has no power to enforce the conditions of his life there.