Obama Should Have Taken a Stronger Stand on Chen Guangcheng

Obama missed an opportunity to reinforce the importance of human rights as a cornerstone of American foreign policy by not speaking out more strongly.

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The case of Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese dissident, appears to have been settled.

The important thing, the most important thing, is that it now appears he will be allowed to leave the country and come to the United States as a "student" and will be allowed to bring his immediate family with him.

[Chen Case Reveals Fragile Chinese Communist Party Could Lead to 'Failed State']

President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke deserve credit for being able to arrange for Chen's egress from China in a way that allows the Communist government in Beijing to save face—which is the only way they were ever going to let him out. That said, the whole incident remains a blemish on the U.S. human rights record.

Chen escaped from house arrest after being put there for protesting China's official policy of forcing women who already have a child to undergo abortions should they again become pregnant. This policy is barbaric and, if anything constitutes "violence against women" that needs to be combated—a recent Democratic theme of the week—it is this. President Obama and his team missed an opportunity to strike a blow for liberty, to reinforce the importance of human rights as a cornerstone of American foreign policy by not speaking out more strongly.

[Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

It is possible that the administration's underplay was deliberate and that, by keeping things on what my son would call "the down low," it prevented Chen's martyrdom. On the other hand, it is also possible they didn't have the faintest idea of what to do or how to handle the situation, and that it all worked out is simply a matter of dumb luck.

In handling the Chen case the way he did, Obama missed a chance to show us that he is indeed the kind of leader he presented himself as being when he first ran for president. It's good, especially for Chen and his family that they apparently get to leave China and come to the United States. It's bad that nobody really knows why.

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