Mitt Romney on Sunday came out in support of a Chinese dissident seeking asylum at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, calling for U.S. officials to "take every measure" to protect him.
Chen Guangchen, a blind Chinese dissident who was placed under house arrest in 2010, reportedly scaled the wall enclosing his house and escaped to the U.S. embassy, aided by friends. The BBC reports that the Chinese government has begun to round up Chen supporters in the wake of his reported dramatic escape.
Romney tied the situation to China's greater civil rights abuses, calling for a crackdown on the government that he has said is stealing U.S. intellectual property and killing American jobs.
"This event points to the broader issue of human rights in China. Any serious U.S. policy toward China must confront the facts of the Chinese government’s denial of political liberties, its one-child policy, and other violations of human rights. Our country must play a strong role in urging reform in China and supporting those fighting for the freedoms we enjoy,” he said in a statement.
Critics have said the Obama administration needs to take a tougher stance on Chinese currency manipulation and unfair trade practices. But as China becomes an increasingly formidable economic power, Obama has had to balance efforts to push China on human rights issues with diplomatic efforts at economic partnership. Indeed, top U.S. officials will be in China this week for diplomatic talks with Beijing.
Obama's counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, said on Fox News Sunday earlier that day that he believes, whatever the president chooses to do about Chen, he needs to continue to strike that balance. Brennan declined to provide details about Chen's status.
“I think, in all instances, the president tries to balance our commitment to human rights, making sure that the people throughout the world have the ability to express themselves freely and openly. But also, that we continue to carry out our relationships with key countries overseas. And China-U.S. relations are important," he said.
"So we're going to make sure that we do this in the appropriate way and that [the] appropriate balance is struck."