Chinese Dissident Chen Guangcheng's Daring Escape


Blind Dissident Chen Guangcheng's Escape Has US Political Implications

In debating what to do with a compelling international human rights figure who represents the kind of repression in China the U.S. has long criticized, the Obama administration must consider political repercussions in an election year.

China has replaced Iraq as the focal point for foreign affairs this season. Republican candidate Mitt Romney is accusing President Obama of being "soft" on China. If the U.S. accepts Chen and his family, it risks further upsetting an already sensitive dynamic with the Chinese government; hand him over to Bejing authorities and the White House gives Romney arsenal for attack that could also be seen as backpedaling on commitment to an issue the Democrats have long championed.

It is further complicated by the belief that Chen does not want to leave China; he has said what he wants is to live freely in his own country with his family. Whether that is possible now is unclear. Some of his supporters are discarding it as any kind of realistic option.

"The worst thing I could see would be for the U.S. to let up," said Fu. "China could make a trick and say he is a free man, we guarantee it, and the U.S. could see it as Chen is a Chinese citizen and let him go. That would be a nightmare I don't want to see."

As details emerged over the weekend and Monday on Chen's escape there was little news on the fate of the key figures in China who had helped him. He Peirong, the young woman who posted on Weibo, China's Twitter, that she had driven Chen to Beijing and handed him over to a "relay" person to take him to a safe house, is thought to be in police custody.

Pearl, as she is known, has become somewhat of an online sensation for her selflessness. Late Monday, online reports from Hong Kong named Guo Yushan, the head of the Chinese reform-related think tank Transition Institute, as another key figure possibly being monitored or in police custody but that could not be confirmed. Hu Jia, a friend and fellow activist, was reportedly detained by police for 24 hours and then released.

Fu, who continues to monitor events from the U.S., says that Chen is "nothing but a miracle." Chen Guangcheng may need at least that if he is to be granted the future he says he wants.

ABC News' Martha Raddatz, Ben Forer and Olivia Katrandjian contributed to this report.

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