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Dissident seeks asylum, clouds China-US dialogue

May 03, 2012 19:58 IST

A diplomatic row over a blind Chinese dissident overshadowed the inaugural meeting of the annual China-US strategic dialogue here after he sought American asylum for himself and his family over fears that "anything could happen" to them if they remained in the country.

The controversy over Chen Guangcheng refused to die down, a day after he left the US embassy after being holed up there for almost a week.

Chen was on Wednesday driven to a hospital by American Ambassador Garry Locke, and reunited with his family, drawing a scathing reaction from China that demanded an apology over what it perceived was US interference in its affairs.

As the US and China started their annual strategic dialogue in the presence of Hillary Clinton, Chen made an open appeal to the visiting US Secretary of State to grant a political asylum to him and family, even expressing a desire "to leave on Hillary's plane".

"I want them (US officials) to protect human rights through concrete actions," Chen told CNN from his hospital room here.

"We are in danger. If you can talk to Hillary, I hope she can help my whole family leave China".

Chen had a telephone conversation with Clinton before he left the US Embassy, stirring up a serious diplomatic row between the two countries ahead of the fourth Strategic and Economic Dialogue (SED), the annual mechanism for the two big powers to discuss bilateral and global issues.

The incident which was perceived to be an embarrassment for China turned out to be a loss of face for Washington as well, as human rights groups accused it of leaving the activist in the lurch with sweet words.

K J M Varma Beijing