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Romney softens tone on U.S. handling of Chen Guangcheng

May 04, 2012|By Seema Mehta
  • Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign event at Exhibit Edge, May 2, 2012 in Chantilly, Virginia.
Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign event at Exhibit Edge, May 2, 2012 in… (Olivier Douliery / Abaca…)

A day after Mitt Romney spoke of a "day of shame for the Obama administration" for its role in protecting a dissident in China who sought shelter at the American Embassy, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee on Friday appeared to be softening his words about the handling of Chen Guangcheng.

"Some recent reports coming from China suggest we may not have been as effective in protecting his freedom as we should have been and if those reports are true that would be a very dark day for freedom, but let's wait and see what those reports finally show,” Romney said on the Fox & Friends show on Fox News. "Hopefully we can get security and freedom for this gentleman and for his family and colleagues."

Chen, a blind lawyer and outspoken critic of China's one-child policy, escaped house arrest and stayed in the American Embassy for six days. There were initial reports that Chen left the embassy and sought medical assistance with assurances for his and his family's safety if they remained in China, and that his departure from the embassy was expedited because top Obama administration officials were in the country for meetings.

White House officials have disputed the accuracy of the reports, said that Chen was never under pressure to leave the embassy and never sought asylum while he was there.

Romney on Thursday seized upon the reports in an indictment of the Obama administration.

"If these reports are true, this is a dark day for freedom and it's a day of shame for the Obama administration,” Romney said while campaigning in Portsmouth, Va. "We are a place of freedom, here and around the world, and we should stand up and defend freedom wherever it is under attack."

His comments led to criticism not only from Democrats but from conservative commentator Bill Kristol, who described Romney's comments as "foolish” when the U.S. is still in the midst of trying to resolve the crisis.

"There is no need to butt into a fast-moving story when the secretary of State is in Beijing with delicate negotiations and say it's a day of shame for the Obama administration. Hillary Clinton is waking up right now. Let's see if she can pull this off in the next 12 hours or so," Kristol said on Fox News on Thursday.

On Friday morning, State Department officials announced that China has indicated a willingness to allow Chen and his family to leave the nation and come to the United States so Chen can accept a fellowship at a university and seek medical treatment.

seema.mehta@latimes.com

Original source: Romney softens tone on U.S. handling of Chen Guangcheng

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