Obama administration hits back on notion that it abandoned Chen in China

The Obama administration pushed back Thursday evening on the notion that U.S. diplomats abandoned Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng when they let him leave the Beijing embassy on Wednesday.

A senior administration official provided The Hill with a detailed account of the past two days that shows U.S. officials were either at Chen's side or in touch with the activist the whole time.

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"The bottom line is that there's a narrative out there that is misconstrued," said the senior administration official, who wouldn't go on the record because of the sensitivity of the situation. "That's just not true and it's something that even Chen appears to be rectifying."

Chinese police have since surrounded the hospital where Chen now is, and U.S. officials have not been able to see him since they left.

"I want to meet with Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton," Chen said Thursday in a surprise phone call during an emergency hearing called by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.). "I hope I can get more help from her. I also want to thank her face to face."

The senior administration official said that on Wednesday, U.S. officials in China met Chen's wife and children and accompanied them to the hospital. During that time Chen's wife spoke by phone with Chen, who was still at the embassy.

At 3 p.m. Beijing time, U.S. officials accompanied Chen from the embassy to the hospital, where officials remained until about 6:30 p.m., the senior administration official said. U.S. officials spoke to Chen two more times by phone on Wednesday, the senior administration official said.

On Thursday, U.S. officials had two more conversations with Chen while helping to connect Chen's wife with the dissident's lawyer. The U.S. embassy doctor also spoke to the hospital doctor that evening.

U.S. ambassador Gary Locke has also pushed back forcefully against the idea that Chen was abandoned.

"We stayed with him in the hospital," Locke told reporters in Beijing Thursday morning. "Of many, many people, I was there for probably an hour and a half after he entered the hospital, met with the family, met with the children."

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