The head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is urging President Obama to protect a blind Chinese dissident reportedly sheltered in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton heads to China for long-scheduled talks suddenly overshadowed by the diplomatic emergency.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen also criticized Mr. Obama for failing to forcibly challenge China on its “dismal” human rights record.
The Florida Republican added that the president has a chance to “correct that mistake” by ensuring the safety of Chen Guangcheng, the prominent dissident who escaped from house arrest on April 22 and apparently entered the U.S. Embassy.
“The U.S. must protect Chen and his family, not hand him over to Chinese authorities to face almost certain prosecution,” Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said.
“Forcing Chen into the hands of China’s police state would send a chilling message to all those around the world looking to America for support in their struggle for freedom.”
Mr. Chen has met with U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke, according to another dissident, Hu Jia, who was questioned by Chinese police and later talked to reporters from the Agence France-Presse in Beijing.
Mr. Hu said police indicated that Mr. Chen met with the ambassador sometime last week.
“He is in the embassy,” Mr. Hu told AFP. “He is not seeking political asylum.”
His situation is expected to be discussed privately with Chinese officials after Mrs. Clinton arrives in Beijing on Thursday. She is to be accompanied by Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner for annual talks on U.S.-Chinese economic issues.
Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States returned to Washington last week to the warmest welcome he has received since his sudden resignation in November amid a diplomatic scandal in Islamabad.
Hussain Haqqani was presented with a top award from the American Committees on Foreign Relations for his service as ambassador here for nearly three years.
“He has shown an extraordinary commitment to improving relations between the U.S. and Pakistan,” said the group’s president, John C. Bierley, who presented Mr. Haqqani with the Distinguished Service Award for the Advancement of Public Discourse.
Mr. Haqqani called for better understanding in U.S.-Pakistan relations, which have been strained since the Navy SEAL raid a year ago that killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town.
“Americans must not view Pakistan as a stereotype and just through the prism of their fight against terrorism,” he said.
“Pakistanis need to be told the American point of view without use of force and with respect for the country’s sovereignty.”
In Pakistan, Mr. Haqqani has been defending himself against charges that he sought U.S. endorsement for the removal of top military leaders suspected of plotting to overthrow the civilian government.
Mr. Haqqani has strongly denied any connection to a shadowy scheme that supposedly involved a Pakistani-American businessman who claims he worked with the ambassador to get a message to Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
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