On Saturday came the surprising and welcome news that Chinese pro-life dissident Chen Guangcheng, his wife, and their two children had arrived in the U.S., after a “daylong and hastily arranged flight from Beijing,” according to the New York Times. Next steps, according to NYT:

Mr. Chen will be allowed to attend law school on a fellowship rather than seek asylum, which the authorities in Beijing would have considered an affront. [New York University]… officials said they had already stocked a faculty apartment with Chinese food and new furniture for him.

Pro-life Republican Congressman Chris Smith was one of a throng of supporters and reporters who met Chen at Newark Airport….

Yesterday Chen got a little R&R where all New Yorkers do, Central Park. Quoting Chen via Time:

“For the past seven years, I have never had a day’s rest,” he said through a translator, “so I have come here for a bit of recuperation for body and in spirit.”

Good interview with Congressman Smith in this clip, who never misses an opportunity to spotlight Chinese abortion atrocities…

In a press release Smith listed all of Chen’s supporters who remain at risk in China.

Among others, conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin kept up the criticism of the Obama administration for its handling of the Chen situation, even as she rightfully heralded the United States as a safe harbor for endangered human rights activists such as Chen. The irony is Chen’s issue: forced abortion. The U.S. is itself no safe harbor for babies, upon whom abortion is also forced. Ironically,  WashPo itself a pro-abortion rag:

There is no better example of America’s essential role in the world and our obligation to defend human rights than Chen’s escape to America. He was not sheltered, however maladroitly, by India or Brazil or Turkey. That Chen and his immediate family will live in freedom and safety is to be celebrated and is a reminder we still lead the Free World.

There are, however, important lessons for policymakers, media and human rights activists.

First and foremost, it is a mistake whenever the administration tries to downplay human rights or shove the topic off to the side (in this case, shove Chen out of the U.S. Embassy). The supposed gains from such actions are nearly always ephemeral. The ensuing embarrassment (from trying to curry favor and avoid causing offense) to the United States winds up outweighing any improvement in the “relationship.” How much better the United States would have looked – and how much more forceful we would have appeared to the Chinese in high-level meetings – had we taken our time, insisted on protection for Chen and his family, and, if need be, delayed the meeting so as to impress on the Chinese that human rights is as important to us as currency and trade issues. In this case, the administration and the Chinese were shamed into spiriting Chen out of China by public opinion, without which Chen would never have been seen again.

And that is the next lesson: It pays to raise a rumpus over human rights.

Without human rights activists, media (in China and the United States) and members of Congress (some of whom talked to Chen by phone during a hearing), Chen would not have been rescued. It’s not “international law” or “diplomacy” that sprung Chen; rather, it was worldwide condemnation and pressure.

One reason, aside from international pressure, the Chinese government likely released Chen was to quell his influence in country. From CBSNews.com, quoting Columbia University Professor of Chinese politics, Andrew Nathan:

“Dissidents who’ve come out of China have pretty much lost their impact on China. They’ve tried to use the internet and publications and the telephone and so on to maintain networks in China, but they’re not really in the game in China,” Nathan said.

Prison, house arrest, and torture only broadened Chen’s appeal.

[Top photo of Chen and his wife Yuan Weijing arriving at their apartment via AFP/Getty; bottom photo via NJ.com]

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