The Case of the Chinese Dissident - Q's for O's WH - 5/3/2012

TAPPER: Mr. Chen has made it clear that he wants to - in many interviews with reporters - that he wants to leave China with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Is the United States willing to take him?

CARNEY: Well, as I've said previously, Jake, there are ongoing conversations happening, both with Mr. Chen, his wife, with Chinese officials. Those conversations are being conducted by State Department officials in Beijing. I simply can't give you updates on the nature of those consultations or what their outcome might be.

TAPPER: That's not what I was asking for. I asked about your willingness -

CARNEY: Well, again, I'm - for questions about and, hypothetically, seeking of political asylum, you would have to go to the State Department. We are not - at the White House, that is not an issue that we handle here. That is a State Department issue. And questions about political asylum and how it can be requested would be appropriately addressed there at the State Department.

We are in conversations now, not we - the State Department folks in Beijing - and I simply can't give you a moment-by-moment update on that. But, as we have more information or as the State Department has more information, they will make it available.

TAPPER: What is the response of the White House to allies of Chen - human rights activists who say that it appears that the U.S. has left him - left him behind, abandoned him?

CARNEY: Well, Ambassador Locke spoke about this as well as Toria Nuland at the State Department. It's simply not the case. Mr. Chen made clear in his conversations with officials in Beijing that he wanted to stay in China - was very clear about that - that he wanted to reunite with his family in China and to relocate in China.

And acting on those - that expression of his wishes, State Department officials negotiated with, consulted with Chinese officials and reached the agreement that was reached.

TAPPER: But is it not true that before Chen had his change of heart that the U.S. had thought that there had been some sort of meeting of the minds, China - the Chinese government had assured the U.S. that he would be able to relocate, that he would be safe, and then domestically within China, the Chinese government put out a statement that suggested no such thing, that they - the United States was acting in a way that was inappropriate, so even before he had this change of heart, there was already reason to question whether or not there actually had been a meeting of the minds?

CARNEY: What I can tell you is the nature of the conversations, more details of which can be provided at the State Department, the desires that Mr. Chen expressed, the attempt by State Department officials to act on those wishes, to work with Chinese officials to have them implemented in a way that provided Mr. Chen with what he was hoping for and simply say that, you know, those assurances were received in a - in the context of Mr. Chen's stated desires. For more details, I think the State Department is your best place.

TAPPER: When the Chinese government says to the United States government, "Trust us, he's going to be fine," does the United States government believe the Chinese government?

CARNEY: Well, I would say two things to that, Jake. First, Mr. Chen said he wanted to stay in China. It is not - it is not obviously our -

TAPPER: That's a different question.

CARNEY: And I'll get to the second part, but let's make clear that that was what Mr. Chen said he wanted. It was what - throughout the conversations, as I understand it, that were held in the embassy.

Acting on those wishes, U.S. officials, State Department officials received the assurances and conveyed those assurances to Mr. Chen, and there was an agreement. We also made clear that we would continue to monitor his case and be in contact with Mr. Chen and would raise concerns about the case if there were concerns to be raised - again, all within the context of what Mr. Chen's stated desires were.

TAPPER: But that didn't answer my question, I'm sorry. Does - when the - when the Chinese government says, trust us, he's going to be fine, does the -

CARNEY: Again - and my answer to that question is as part of the agreement that was reached, we made clear that we would continue to monitor this and that we would raise concerns if those concern - if concerns were - needed to be raised.

-Jake Tapper

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