“I can tell you unequivocally that he was never pressured to leave. He was excited and eager about leaving when he made this decision,” Locke said.
A senior State department official said U.S. officials were spending Thursay trying to establish what Chen in fact wants to do before exploring any further ways to help him.
“Our understanding now from the contacts that we have had with his wife is that his view of what the best thing for him and his family may be changing,” the official said. “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 chnaged and what he now wants.”
Soon after Locke and State Department legal adviser Harold Koh dropped Chen off at the hospital on Wednesday, the diplomatic frictions grew.
A combative statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry heightened fears among Chen’s supporters that the deal could be unraveling. Fuming over the United States’ acknowledgment that it had sheltered Chen, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said, “The U.S. method was interference in Chinese domestic affairs, and this is totally unacceptable to China.”
According to the state-run news agency Xinhua, Liu added: “China demands that the United States apologize over this, thoroughly investigate this incident, punish those who are responsible and give assurances that such incidents will not happen again.”
Campbell said that the United States would not apologize but that Washington did not expect a similar incident to occur, a formulation U.S. officials hoped would be sufficient to mollify Chinese officials.
Meanwhile, Zeng Jinyan, the activist whose Twitter messages provided the most detailed information about Chen once he reached the hospital, put out another message Thursday saying she was now under house arrest in Beijing.
Zeng’s Twitter message said police agents in a black car followed her Thursday morning as she drove her daughter to kindergarten. She said the police then followed her back home and said she was officially under house arrest.
Zeng later answered the telephone briefly at her home after noon Thursday and said quietly, “Right now my situation is not good. My situation is complicated ... I cannot accept interviews.” Since then, her communications have been apparently cut off.
Zeng’s husband, AIDS activist Hu Jia, is away from Beijing at a conference in another part of China, and said he had been unable to contact his wife.
As the high-level diplomatic and trade talks began Thursday morning, there was no public mention of Chen, but there were allusions to the case.
Opening the sessions, Councilor Dai Bingguo asserted China’s right to determine how best to run its society.