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Background Briefing by Senior State Department Official


Special Briefing
Senior State Department Official
Diaoyutai
Beijing, China
May 3, 2012

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SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So as Ambassador Locke just made clear, the entire context here from the beginning, from our perspective, is that Chen Guangcheng reached out to the U.S. Government for help. We went out and got him. Our perspective throughout was to help him out of the extremely tough situation that he found himself in, and to try to help him meet his objectives for his future.

So it is in that context that he came into the Embassy in the first place. It is in that context, as Ambassador Locke made clear, that we asked him if he wanted to go to the States. He said he did not. And we began talking about his other options, and we ended up with the deal that he accepted after talking to his wife, and he went to the hospital.

Our understanding now from the contacts that we have had with him and his wife is that his view of what the best thing for him and his family may be may be changing, but we do not yet have a full view of what he wants to do at this stage. So we are spending today endeavoring to clarify whether his position has changed and what he now wants. So we will continue to do that throughout the day today, and when we feel that we have a clear view of what his final decision is, we will do what we can to help him achieve that. But I’m not going to prejudge here what his final view is going to be, or what we will be able to do to support him given the fact that he very clearly made one choice yesterday, and may have had a change of view today.

So that is where we are, and we would ask you to give us some time to continue to work with him to understand what he wants.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the access that you have to him?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We have had a chance to speak to him today. We’ve also had a chance to speak to his wife.

QUESTION: In person or on the phone?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We have so far spoken to him on the phone. We have seen his wife in person. He has been undergoing medical tests all morning, and we are continuing to try to ascertain and work with him on what he wants to do.

QUESTION: And the medical tests have been – have U.S. doctors been present during medical tests (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: They have not been present. They were present yesterday. But it was our agreement with the Chinese that they would do a full battery of physical tests today given concerns about the mistreatment and abuse he had had for months and years, and the need to do a full workup on him.

QUESTION: What are you --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So again, it is only midday, and we are continuing to work with him and his wife today.

QUESTION: What is your sense of why he changed his mind? And it wasn’t just today; it was apparently last night. That’s when reports started coming out about him changing his mind.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Again, I think we need to continue our conversations with him to get a fuller picture of how his thinking may have evolved.

QUESTION: What was the nature of your conversation with the wife today? You said you spoke with her in person. Tell us about that.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think beyond saying that we had a good and full conversation with her and made clear that we want to continue talking today, I’m not going to characterize it until we are comfortable that we have a full picture.

QUESTION: And that – to be clear, the conversation was today?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Today, this morning.

QUESTION: What is the Chinese Government’s position on all of this? As you’ve been talking about it, have they said, sort of, “Too late, we made a deal and you either take it or leave it,” or is there an opening on their part for some kind of negotiation?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’m not going to characterize their position.

QUESTION: Are you – can you tell us that you are actually in contact with the Chinese Government about the Chen case?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We have, of course, at the level of Assistant Secretary Campbell, been talking to them today.

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PRN: 2012/T63-05



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