To the Editor,
Chen Guangcheng surely makes valid criticisms of his society and government, and should be able to speak more freely, but this is a Chinese matter among Chinese citizens and authorities.
Harboring internal dissidents from their own government is a leaping extension of the immunity granted to our diplomats in China in order to create a protected space for communication between governments. It is reciprocal, of course, with the immunity from American law which we grant the Chinese embassy in Washington.
Extending U.S. diplomatic protection to Mr. Chen is unmistakably an interference in Chinese internal affairs. There are far more important issues than Mr. Chen’s case between our governments: first and foremost the slow but steady building of a relationship of trust and cooperation with China’s government that will obviate a cold war, or any form or war, as China rises at home and internationally.
How can letting Chen Guangcheng inject himself into US-China relations help this central agenda? We have mis-stepped. Keeping the matter at the level of Secretary Clinton’s State Department, we should decisively close this episode as quickly as possible, if necessary giving an apology.