PORTSMOUTH, Va. – Mitt Romney suggested today that if news reports are true that blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng was urged to leave the U.S. Embassy in Beijing by American officials then it’s a “day of shame for the Obama administration.”
“Now just in the last day or two we’ve heard some disturbing things from across the world that suggests potentially if the reports are true, some very troubling developments there,” said Romney, who was in Virginia for a second day of campaigning in the battleground state.
“Where an individual, Mr. Chen, has sought freedom in a bastion of freedom – an Embassy of the United States of America, aren’t we proud of the fact that people seeking freedom come to our embassy to find it?” said Romney. “The reports are, if they’re accurate, that our administration willingly or unwittingly communicated to Chen an implicit threat to his family and also probably sped up or maybe sped up the process of his decision to leave the embassy because they wanted to move on to a series of discussions that Mr. Geitner and our Secretary of State are planning on having with China.”
“It’s also apparent, according to these reports, if they’re accurate, that our Embassy failed to put in place the kind of verifiable measures that would assure the safety of Mr. Chen and his family,” said Romney. “If these reports are true, this is a dark day for freedom and it’s a day of shame for the Obama Administration. We are a place of freedom here and around the world and we should stand up and defend freedom wherever it is under attack.”
Conflicting reports have emerged from Beijing regarding how Chen was treated at the U.S. Embassy, where he went to seek refuge after escaping house arrest under threats from the Chinese government. The Romney campaign did not respond when asked for a specific report Romney was referring to during his remarks.
Chen, 40, said he had a change of heart about leaving the country Thursday, telling ABC News in an interview, “I wanted to stay in China in the beginning, but now I have changed my mind.”
Along with his family, he now wants “to leave for the U.S. on Hilary Clinton’s plane.”
Speaking to The Associated Press, Chen, a blind human rights activist, said the only reason he left the U.S. Embassy is because he was told the Chinese would kill his wife if he refused. In subsequent comments to multiple media outlets, including ABC News, he stepped back from that comment. He said the Chinese government “threatened me that if I don’t leave the embassy, they will bring my family back to Shandong.
U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke said today in Beijing that Chen “was never pressured to leave” the Embassy.
ABC News’ Beijing bureau reporters contributed to this report.