Principles are expensive

Alone with his wife and children, Chen Guangcheng periodically switched on a cell phone Thursday to tell friends and foreign media he felt scared and wanted to go abroad, and that he had not seen U.S. officials in over a day.He even called in to a congressional hearing in Washington, telling lawmakers he wanted to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is in Beijing this week. “I hope I can get more help from her,” Chen said.Chens high-profile effort to keep his case in the public eye increased pressure on Washington and embarrassed Beijing as it hosted Clinton and other U.S. officials for annual talks on global political and economic hotspots.

via U.S. seeks solutions in China activists case – CBS News.

If Chen’s story is even partially accurate, the narrative of the US human rights regime should make this an open and shut case. Unfortunately, realpolitik makes this a lot more complicated.

Obviously State cannot be especially eager about the prospects of granting asylum or even a meeting to Chen, especially during the middle of a high-profile visit from Secretary Clinton.

The most likely outcome is either a convenient concession by Chen, or a backchannel-directed pressure by the US to allow Chen some modicum of freedom. In either case, the public stalling does us no favors.


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