Caught between a desire to seem to be “engaging” China on human rights and a new-found realization of how messy that is, the US State Department is loudly trumpeting a tentative deal on Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng as a “way out” – something it desperately wants.
The deal, which came virtually out of nowhere as New York University offered Chen a fellowship, allowing him and his family to come to the US for formal legal study. The State Department says it will issue visas as soon as China approves travel permits.
The US has been struggling to try to figure out what to do with Chen since he showed up at the embassy door seeking asylum. So far the responses was to give lip-service to his plight while relaying threats to his family, even as the US tried to coax him out the door.
After that flailing effort to resolve the situation without alienating the Chinese government, it is clear that US officials need this NYU deal to go through, because the US diplomats on the ground clearly have no solutions of their own.