Because Chinese negotiators worked with their American counterparts, not with Chen himself while he was in the US embassy, where he had sought refuge after escaping house arrest a few days earlier, “they won’t pay much attention to what he says,” believes Professor Shi. “In international relations, changing this kind of agreement is ridiculous.”
US officials spent the day at the Beijing hospital where Chen is undergoing medical tests, but had been unable to see him, according to a senior official.
Chen told the BBC by telephone he believed Chinese security men were denying embassy representatives access to him. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters that US officials had spoken to Chen twice by phone on Thursday and with his wife, and that “they as a family have had a change of heart about whether they want to stay in China.”
“We are continuing to try to ascertain and work with him on what he wants to do,” the senior official said, while Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, who helped negotiate the original deal, talked with Chinese officials Thursday.
Chen, who has sounded upset and confused in his conversations with journalists and supporters, appears to have decided on Wednesday evening that he would rather flee China than remain here, after speaking to his wife, friends, and fellow activists about his future.
He told reporters he had left the US embassy, where he had sought refuge last week, only because Chinese officials had threatened that unless he did so, they would send his wife back to their hometown, where he and she had been repeatedly beaten during 19 months of illegal house arrest by the men assigned to guard them.
Salvaging the original plan, with which Chen had appeared happy as he left the embassy according to US diplomats pointing to photos of the activist smiling and hugging his American hosts, would be difficult, says Phelim Kine, a researcher with Human Rights Watch.