Dissident Talks Cloaked in Secrecy
Biggest challenge to US-China relations since Tiananmen: insiders
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2012 3:46 AM CDT
Pro-democracy protesters wearing sunglasses hold placards with picture of blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng outside the China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
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(Newser) – The silence speaks volumes. Days after blind dissident Chen Guangcheng fled house arrest and took shelter with US officials in Beijing, American diplomats and Chinese officials are still keeping quiet about what's going to happen next, as both sides scramble to figure out how to resolve the standoff, reports the New York Times. A senior US diplomat has been dispatched to Beijing, and it's not clear if Chen is still in the US embassy, a diplomatic residence, or elsewhere. The intense secrecy reflects the sensitivity and importance both sides are placing on the standoff, especially with Hillary Clinton due in Beijing to participate in two days of talks with the Chinese government. "This is the greatest test in bilateral relations in years, probably going back to '89," said one China expert formerly at the CIA, referring to the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

But there could be an out for all sides. Chen has not asked for asylum or called for an overthrow of China's government, and insiders are saying Chen's actions were more about escaping harassment by local authorities. Of course, Mitt Romney weighed in on the issue yesterday. While not criticizing the Obama administration directly he called for a tough response, reports the Guardian. "Any serious US 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," he said.