The case of Chen Guangcheng, the blind activist who escaped from under house arrest in China, will likely complicate relations between the two countries as he does not want to leave China, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Chinese and US officials were silent on Monday about Chen's location, though reports suggest Chen sought US protection. The US embassy, where Chen is believed to have taken refuge, has not confirmed or denied the rumors.
Hu Jia, a human rights activist who said he met Chen after his arrival in Beijing, said, "[Chen] believes no power can stop China from moving in the direction rule of law. He's optimistic and he wants to be involved in that process." Hu added, "He went to the embassy not to seek asylum, but for safety," according to The Journal.
The case has created an awkward diplomatic problem ahead of high-level talks between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and their Chinese counterparts set to take place in Beijing, according to the Guardian.
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The Chinese government has maintained silence, with no mention of Chen's escape in the media and President Barack Obama and Clinton refused to comment on the issue on Monday, said the BBC.
China's strategy for neutralizing dissidents usually involves banning any mention of them in the media or detaining them. Chen was sent to prison over four years ago, for protesting against forced abortions and sterilizations used to enforce China's one child policy. After his release in 2010, Chen was detained in his home and watched by security personnel, according to the BBC.
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On Monday, without addressing Chen's particular case, Obama said addressing human rights issues was not only "the right thing to do, because it comports with our principles and our belief in freedom and human rights, but also because we actually think China will be stronger as it opens up and liberalizes its own system," according to The Washington Post.
The options in Chen's case include asylum in the US, or trying to elicit a guarantee of safety for himself and his family from Beijing.
Zeng Jinyan, an activist and friend of Chen's said that the possibility of Chen seeking asylum in the US would "reveal that the environment for rights defenders is worsening," according to the Guardian. "It would feel desperate if even the most important activist – someone who has the wisdom and ability to make changes in China – had to go into exile to protect his safety."
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