“Our embassy failed to put in place the kind of verifiable measures that would have assured the safety of Mr. Chen and his family,” said Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. “If these reports are true, this is a dark day for freedom, and it’s a day of shame for the Obama administration.”
For China, the crisis falls into an ongoing struggle between increasingly visible reform-minded moderates within the Communist Party and hard-liners who emphasize security and stability at any cost.
Some analysts saw Chinese officials’ quick acceptance of Wednesday’s deal as a sign of the reform faction’s sway. In many ways, China’s apparent willingness to give assurances to a foreign country about how it would treat one of its citizens was exceedingly rare.
But the deal’s rapid unraveling could, instead, boost hard-liners.
“The collateral damage here is substantial,” said Kenneth G. Lieberthal, a China expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “If there was a debate on the Chinese side on whether to negotiate, this certainly isn’t good for those who pushed for the deal.”
At the hospital Thursday, police harshly treated journalists and a small number of Chen’s supporters who tried to see him in his first-floor room. On Friday, more supporters reported being beaten and detained by police for going to the hospital to try to visit Chen.
Security officials also reportedly took away government-issued press cards from some journalists who tried to enter the hospital. On Friday, police were taking down the names and press card information from reporters who gathered outside the hospital.
Du Yanlin, an accountant and tax consultant for the dissident artist Ai Weiwei, said he tried to visit Chen around 1 p.m. Thursday but was turned away by plainclothes police officers. After he and his friends posed for a photo in front of the hospital wearing sunglasses like Chen’s, Du said, police followed him home and questioned him for “making trouble.”
Jiang Tianyong, a human rights lawyer, described in an interview how he went to Chaoyang hospital to try to see Chen around 6 p.m. Thursday, but was immediately hustled into an unmarked car by about 10 plainclothes officers from Beijing’s Haidan district public security branch.
Jiang said the agents took him to a hotel room where they first repeatedly insulted and berated him, and then one “suddenly jumped on me and punched me heavily three times, on my left ear, my right ear and my chest. I instantly felt a severe hearing loss.”
Jiang said he could barely hear, but they told him “The Chen Guangcheng incident is a big matter, not a small matter.”