Romney: US must 'take every measure’ to protect China dissident

Likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Sunday called on U.S. officials to “take every measure” to protect Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, who reports say has sought protection within the American Embassy in Beijing. 

“My concern at this moment is for the safety of Chen Guangcheng and his family,” said Romney in a statement released by his campaign on Sunday.

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“My hope is that U.S. officials will take every measure to ensure that Chen and his family members are protected from further persecution,” he added.

Chen, a civil rights lawyer in China had been placed under house arrest for his criticisms of the government. Reports say that he escaped from house arrest on April 22 and fled to the U.S. embassy.

Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell arrived in Beijing this weekend to handle negotiations over the state of Mr. Chen, reports said. 

Asked about Chen on Sunday, Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan said the administration was “working very closely with the individuals involved in this.”

The White House is facing pressure to allow Chen to leave China, heightening tensions between Washington and Beijing ahead of high level talks due to begin this Thursday on economic and military matters.

“The president tries to balance our commitment to human rights, making sure that the people throughout the world have the ability to express themselves freely and openly. But also, that we continue to carry out our relationships with key countries overseas,” said Brennan on Sunday. 

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be attending the U.S.-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue meeting, high-level talks on military and economic issues.

In his statement, Romney said Chen’s situation should draw further scrutiny to China’s human rights record. 

“Any serious U.S. policy toward China must confront the facts of the Chinese government’s denial of political liberties, its one-child policy, and other violations of human rights. Our country must play a strong role in urging reform in China and supporting those fighting for the freedoms we enjoy,” he said.

The former Massachusetts governor and presumptive GOP presidential nominee has been a strong critic of President Obama’s foreign policy, including his relations with China. 

In February, Romney said that Obama had allowed China to engage in unfair trade practices and to artificially keep its currency down, costing American jobs. “They’ve walked all over him,” said Romney of the Chinese government’s dealings with Obama.