The Chen Guangcheng exile deal: Happy ending or disaster?

The Week's Editorial Staff

After a tense showdown between the U.S. and China, a blind activist waits to see whether Beijing will honor an agreement to let him study in the U.S.

The diplomatic crisis over Chen Guangcheng isn't over yet. Chen, a blind activist who escaped from house arrest and hid for six days in the U.S. embassy, had hoped to stay in China under a deal brokered last week by the Obama administration, but that arrangement quickly unraveled. Now, Chen says he's hopeful that Chinese leaders will respect a new agreement allowing him to go to the U.S. for a teaching fellowship, and take his family with him. "I still don't know when I'll leave, but it shouldn't be too long," Chen, a self-taught lawyer, tells Reuters. Is this a good deal for all concerned, or could it still prove to be a disaster?

Everybody wins: The agreement to let Chen study in the U.S. could be "a face-saving measure for all involved," says Bradley Klapper of The Associated Press. Last week, the standoff was turning into an election-year headache for President Obama, a human-rights embarrasment for China, and a personal nightmare for Chen. Now "Washington can say it safeguarded human rights, Beijing can point to its cooperative diplomacy, and Chen gets a new start in America."
"Analysis: Chen deal a face-saver for U.S. and China"

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This saga may hurt other Chinese activists: The suddenly-world-famous Chen isn't the only one whose future is on the line, says Andrew Higgins in The Washington Post. Remember, China's ruling Communist Party "has a long history of punishing not just those who challenge or embarrass it but also their families and friends." As the diplomatic wrangling unfolded, Beijing clamped down on foreign journalists and detained and even beat Chen's supporters. This deal may be good for Chen, but for other outspoken Chinese activists, the "tempest of retribution" may get worse.
"Chen Guangcheng’s family and friends face tempest of retribution"

And Chen isn't safe yet: "Between a fate of exile in the U.S. or potential confinement in China, Chen has no perfect choices," says Hannah Beech at TIME. He wanted to stay in China and "use the legal system on behalf of the country's masses," but Beijing never would have allowed that. Now we must wait and see whether China upholds its end of the bargain and lets Chen leave "tomorrow or next week or next month." The "waiting game is on."
"Will Chen Guangcheng be allowed to leave China? The waiting game continues"

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