The Associated Press reports:

A blind Chinese activist who sparked a diplomatic crisis by fleeing into the U.S. Embassy last month filled out a Chinese passport application and posed for a photo Wednesday, moving forward in his bid to study in the United States.

Paperwork for Chen Guangcheng, his wife, and two children was completed in the hospital where the family of four has stayed since he left the embassy in Beijing two weeks ago.

Chen said the officials who handled the paperwork were sent by the central government.

“I am sure they were sent by the central government, which appears to be fulfilling its responsibility,” he said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has said Chen is free to study abroad like any other Chinese citizen, but security officials have kept him under virtual house arrest in his hospital room for two weeks. Until Wednesday, there was no clear sign that the government would let him apply for a passport.

The State Department, in turn, “has taken all the necessary steps on its side to admit Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese human rights activist who ignited a diplomatic frenzy when he escaped house arrest last month. ‘We are ready when he and his government are ready,’ said Victoria Nuland, the U.S. State Department spokeswoman, on Tuesday. ‘We have been for more than a week now in terms of his visa to come pursue his studies.’ ”

Chen’s family and friends are another story, however. Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy reports that on Tuesday Chen, as he had earlier this month, called into the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights, chaired by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.).

Chen was able to speak at the hearing through the iPhone of his friend, Pastor Bob Fu, who was testifying before  the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights, chaired by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ). Smith has long been active on the Chen case and is determined to raise awareness about the plight of Chen’s associates in China, as well as that of women in China facing abuse of the one-child policy through forced abortions and forced sterilization. . . .

At Tuesday’s hearing, Chen related the story of his brother and sister-in-law, who are still trapped in his home province of Shandong and are still facing violent retribution from local officials due to Chen’s daring April 26 escape from house arrest.

“I just want to talk about what happened to my other family members after I escaped from my home. On April 26, around midnight a group of local government thugs led by the local township leader raided my elder brother’s home and started beating them violently,” Chen said in Chinese, with Fu translating.

“My elder brother was taken away by these thugs without any reasoning and then they came back and started beating my nephew, using sticks, violently beating him up. For three hours, the bleeding on his head and face did not stop. It was so violent he had to defend himself.”

Chen’s nephew was arrested after the incident and has not been heard from since, though he has been accused of attempted murder.

“This charge against my nephew for intentional homicide is totally trumped up. To be charged with this in his own home when defending against intruders is totally irrational and unreasonable,” Chen said.

He said that the local township leader in his family’s hometown has led groups of thugs to harass his family and raid his home several times, so the recent action is part of a pattern. But the reprisal attacks since his escape have been especially violent.

What if anything the United States has done about this is unclear. But it certainly highlights the inanity of our China policy. We rushed Chen out of the embassy so that his plight wouldn’t interfere with relatively meaningless high-level talks between the United States and China. And while Chen may be allowed to leave China, the punishment doled out to those close to him has been so severe that it underscores that the country’s leaders won’t be curtailed in their domestic despotism.

It seems not to dawn on the Obama administration that until China’s Communist rulers perceive negative consequences from their human rights abuses, China’s behavior will not change. And our school-girl-like behavior in running after China to keep the “relationship” going is as counterproductive an approach as one can imagine.