Washington/Beijing: Amid the deepening drama over blind Chinese activist Chen Guancheng being reportedly holed up in US embassy in Beijing, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday embarked on a trip to China.
According to agency reports, the Chinese dissident is slated to heighten the tensions between China and US as he would go on with his demands for reforms and prefer to stay in China. Both governments have scrupulously avoided official comment on the Chen case and neither has confirmed that he is under U.S. protection in Beijing.
The two biggest economies have been recently embroiled in an uneasy affair as the US is being seen caught in the dilemma triggered by Chen’s escape. On one hand where the US has been known for its pro-human rights attitude, it also has to show smart diplomacy for the sake of ties with China.
So far, both the countries have not spoken much about the issue in public but as Hillary heads to Beijing, she has on her shoulders the tough task of resolving the matter smoothly.
President Barack Obama, being in his election year, played safe and refused to comment on the issue but didn’t miss to press China to “improve” its human rights record.
"Obviously, I`m aware of the press reports on the situation in China, but I`m not going to make a statement on the issue," Obama said when asked to comment whether Chen Guangcheng was under US protection and whether his administration would grant him asylum if he were to ask for it.
Obam further said that US-China relationship "will be that much stronger and China will be that much more prosperous and strong as you see improvements on human rights issues in that country".
Politically sensitive timing
The impasse over Chen comes at a time which sees both the countries, US and China, in politically sensitive mode.
The US, on one hand, has its presidential elections scheduled in November and President Obama would try his best to avoid helping his Republican enemies earn brownie points over the tangle with China.
China, too, has been contemplating major changes in its ruling part which have gone for a toss since the top contender Bo Xilai being tainted over the case of British businessman’s murder.
Before leaving, Clinton promised to press China`s leaders on human rights, an issue that has dropped down the agenda between the two countries in the more than two decades since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Clinton ducked a question about Chen, but hinted that she would not be shy about the matter in Beijing.
"A constructive relationship includes talking very frankly about those areas where we do not agree, including human rights," she told a news conference.
Chen Guancheng, the 40 year old activist who has been blind since birth, evaded security and escaped on April 22 after 18 months of house arrest. Chen has been a prolific human rights activist and has been instrumental in exposing the dark patches of China.