Top of the Agenda: Chinese Dissident Leaves U.S. Embassy
Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who fled house arrest last week, left the U.S. embassy in Beijing to go to a medical facility and reunite with his family (NYT), the United States said in a statement today. The statement was issued hours after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Beijing for planned economic and security talks with senior Chinese officials. The Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed that Chen had stayed in the U.S. embassy for six days, while demanding an apology from the United States. The incident is expected to overshadow the two days of U.S.-China discussions.
"Initially, speculation centered on a possible face-saving departure from China on medical grounds for Chen--and that a hospital check-up was needed for that to happen. But a U.S. official later said that Chen never asked for the Americans' help in seeking asylum and that he had left the American Embassy after being told by the Chinese side that he would be treated as an ordinary citizen--presumably meaning one that is not subject to extralegal house arrest," writes TIME's Hannah Beech.
"What Chen's escape confirms however is the existence of a network that--albeit more ad hoc and less extensive--can still manage to evade the Big Brother surveillance techniques and technology of Chinese officialdom--much like the web of activists, sympathizers, business executives, religious believers, diplomats, underworld characters, Hong Kong celebrities, and even sympathetic local Chinese officials who took part in Operation Yellowbird from 1989 to around 1997," writes Newsweek's Melinda Liu.
"The United States needs to work with Beijing. But Mr. Chen's safety and that of his family is not negotiable. There would be no crisis if China's autocrats didn't deny their people the most basic rights. China, eager for international respect, will further damage its reputation if it continues to abuse its own citizens," argues this New York Times editorial.
In an unannounced visit to Kabul (al-Jazeera) late on Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama signed a strategic accord with Afghan President Hamid Karzai outlining the U.S.-Afghan relationship after the U.S. combat mission ends in 2014. The deal allows the United States to potentially keep troops in Afghanistan for training missions and targeted operations after 2014.
Meanwhile, the Taliban allegedly orchestrated a suicide attack in Kabul (AP) early Wednesday morning in response to Obama's visit, killing at least six people.
The Syrian government and opposition forces are violating a UN-Arab League cease-fire, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous said yesterday. There are currently twenty-four unarmed UN military observers (CNN) on the ground to monitor the cease-fire.
Bolivian President Evo Morales ordered the military to seize control (AFP) of power company Transportadora de Electricidad SA, a subsidiary of Spain's Red Electrica Corporation. The move comes on the heels of a similar decision by Argentina to nationalize a subsidiary of a Spanish oil company last month.