May 3rd, 2012
02:33 PM ET
6 years ago

Romney questions Obama actions surrounding Chinese activist

(CNN) – Mitt Romney used his harshest words to date to criticize the Obama administration's actions surrounding the situation with Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee characterized reports over the last day as "troubling developments."

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"If these reports are true this is a dark day for freedom and it is a day of shame for the Obama administration," Romney said at a campaign rally in Portsmouth, Virginia. "We are a place of freedom here and around the world and we should stand up and defend freedom wherever it is under attack."

Chen, a human rights attorney who has been persecuted by Chinese authorities for his work exposing the government's one-child-per-couple policy, among other issues, escaped house arrest and took refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. After setting of off a behind-the-scenes diplomatic effort intended to prevent the situation from harming the top-level meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Chen was released on Wednesday and joined his family at a hospital.

U.S. officials said he never requested asylum and that China gave assurances he and his family would not face further persecution, but after he left the embassy Chen said he wanted U.S. help to flee his native country because he feared for his family's safety.

Romney said he is disappointed in reports that indicate the current administration "probably sped up or may have sped up the process" of his decision to leave the embassy due to impending discussions between China and top U.S. officials, including Clinton and Geithner. He also said the embassy seemingly failed to "put in place the kind of verifiable measures that would assure the safety of Mr. Chen and his family," if the reports are proved accurate.

The former Massachusetts governor expressed concern for the blind dissident after news broke that he fled house arrest in eastern China and was in the Embassy in Beijing.

"My concern at this moment is for the safety of Chen Guangcheng and his family," Romney said in a statement released by his campaign on Sunday. "My hope is that U.S. officials will take every measure to ensure that Chen and his family members are protected from further persecution."

Ben LaBolt, press secretary for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign, said Romney's comments on Thursday "ring hollow."

"He has no coherent foreign policy vision, no concrete plans to enhance our security and strengthen our alliances, and he has taken conflicting positions on every major foreign policy issue facing our nation," LaBolt said in a statement. "Rather than leveling these empty political attacks at the President, Mitt Romney should tell the American people exactly what he would do as Commander-in-Chief."

- CNN's Gabriella Schwarz and the CNN Wire Staff contributed to this report.

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Filed under: China • Mitt Romney • President Obama
soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. Democrat Class Warfare - Destroying the economy, destroying the country

    US Embassy personnel should have been doing everything they could to convince him to stay in the embassy and not leave or leave for the USA. Somehow I doubt that happened.

    So this guy is a "human rights attorney" in China??? Surely he is one of a kind in that country!!

    May 3, 2012 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  2. Gary Owen 2/7

    Romney is so far out of his league it is pathetic.

    May 3, 2012 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  3. AL in West Palm Beach

    Robmey, this is the Nth time you've used the word "troubling" for someone with an MBA isn't there any other word you can you use to express how you feel? I know your handlers are careful not to let you use your own words, but come on. Even in an essay, your teachers would have seen this as a sign of PURE LAZINESS on your part.

    Now tell me, what would you have differently, because you know, "A critic is compararitive to the idiot in the backseat bad-mouthing the driver about which road to take to get to the destination, but lacked the gonads to sit behind the wheel and DRIVE."

    May 3, 2012 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    Yawn. Deputy Doublethink, Armchair Diplomat. Just more tapdancing in clown shoes.

    "Romney said he is disappointed in reports that indicate the current administration "probably sped up or may have sped up the process" of his decision to leave the embassy due to impending discussions between China and top U.S. officials, including Clinton and Geithner."

    What reports and why is CNN not reporting them if they indeed actually exist? Or is this just Mittens inventing vague references to reports to lend false credibility to what really amounts to nothing more than a bald-faced assumption on his part? I mean, "probably" and "may have"? Way to give him a free pass on fabricating himself a straw man to light on fire.

    May 3, 2012 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "He also said the embassy seemingly failed to "put in place the kind of verifiable measures that would assure the safety of Mr. Chen and his family," if the reports are proved accurate."

    Wow. Boy does that sound decider-y and official and like he's got the solutions to protecting Chen all figured out. Oh wait,'s jsut another vague, meaningless, substanceless spray of talking point vomit designed to give that impression but, in fact, devoid of any specifics. In truth, his statement does nothing to actually suggest he has the first clue what he's talking about and simply cloaks his cluelessness in carefully worded pretense.

    Flipper is a FAKER.

    May 3, 2012 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  6. LoganIA

    Obama alleviates the fact that China is not a democracy and tries to put together petty speeches, what he doesn't realize, for some reason, is that most of our issues with China are because of just that.

    May 3, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  7. Lynda/Minnesota

    Oh, goody. More Romney anti-Obama blah, blah. Mitt's turning into a broken record. A really, really, scratched and broken record playing the same blah, blah, blah tune – over and over and over and over again.

    This Obama fetish of his is getting embarrassing. Reminds me of Tim Pawlenty. Too fixated on one thing and simply unable to function anymore without getting that daily fix of "macho bravada" by centering on the one thing they wish they were, but aren't.

    Insecurity issues do that to a person. Mitt's got a whole host of them.

    May 3, 2012 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  8. Jeetu

    I think we cannot take care of every human rights voilation in the world. Surely, being on China's soil, we cannot bring Chen or anyone else to USA just like that. Afterall, everyone who comes to USDA has to follow some legal requirements. Just because Chen escaped from Chinese House arrest does not make him an ideal candidate to defect to USA. There are millions like that in China who for one reason or the other think that the Government of China has done them wrong. They cannot be broight to USA.

    I think to take care of human rights is to insist that countries like China develop policies that protect human rights rather than getting everyone from China to come to USA. That is the only practical way. Being done democratically and internationally, this process is slow; however, it is producing results all over the world over a long period of time.

    Governor Romney is way off the base in criticizing Obama without knowing the details. To me this also shows lack of understanding of the issues sourrouding foeign policy and international events on Romney's part. We cannot interefere in every international situaiton. It appears Romney wants to blame everything on Obama incluidng his ignorance of what is happening.

    If Mr. Chen wishes to come to USA, he should follow the route others have followed in China; get a visa and fly to USA rather than demanding that the Secretary of State take him and his family with her in her plane. He is asking USA to directly go to war with China which is a huge sacrifice for many people to fulful an unreasonable demand of one.

    May 3, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    Deputy Doublethink, Armchair Diplomat. Is he pathologically incapable of saying anything of substance? Seriously. He invents a vague reference to unidentified "reports" to make his baseless ASSUMPTION that Chen was "probably" or "may have" been tossed out in the street for convenience beacuse of the upcoming meetings. It's nothing but a fabrication designed to get the GOP/Teatroll base making the accusation that that is the truth. Mroeover, his blather about taking "every measure" is also vague and compeltely without substance. What would Mittens do? He doesn't say. HE NEVER SAYS. What he does do is take a very vague and meaningless comment and word it very carefully to sound official and decider-like in order to imply that he's got the answers but just isn't sharing them yet. That doesn't change the fact that there is NOTHING behind the comment...and nothing in his suit.

    May 3, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  10. Woman In California

    "We are a place of freedom here and around the world and we should stand up and defend freedom wherever it is under attack."

    Then go and join the military Willard and IF you are too old – send at least one of your good for nothing sons. Please get back to me when YOU finally "stand up" for this country. Until then, please just leave the decision making to our CURRENT and capable president.

    May 3, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  11. Sid Prejean

    "If these reports are true..." is a damned poor (read: lazy) way to preface inflamatory remarks about sensitive international events.
    The guy wouldn't recognize a critical foreign policy issue if he found it growing out of his side.
    Until you know the facts, and not just "reports", perhaps you should keep your thoughts to yourself.

    May 3, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  12. Bob

    Oh, get over yourself, Etch-A-Sketch.

    May 3, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  13. Corporations Are People

    Shhh Willard. You don't really want to expose your foreign policy naivete for all to see again.
    Instead of being troubled, Willard should provide us with a specific gameplan that he has in mind now; before wading into the Tuesday morning quarterbacking personna known as MeToo Romney.

    May 3, 2012 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  14. V in Chicago

    Mitt – it's must be nice to sit back and have NONE of the responsibilities of these matters on your shoulders, and then being able to make them political talking points for yourself. Did you ever stop to think that there may be underlying issues related to this that you KNOW NOTHING ABOUT? This man is not an American Citizen. I'm not saying that China does not have serious human rights issues, but what would make him expect any different treatment from the US than the millions of other Chinese citizens who would also like to get out of China.

    Face it – you have no foreign policy experience and you really should stop spouting off on things you know nothing about. Why don't you get back to the economy. I, for one, would like to know how to stash my money in off shore accounts so I can dodge the same taxes you are dodging by doing so. How about sharing some of what you do know about . . . FOOL!

    May 3, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |

    GOBP policies of greed leave America broke and in no postion to force anything on China who own us. Mitt McCain gets his Pac money from China thanks to the corrupt bought and paid for Supreme Court. President Obama will still kill him in Nov.

    May 3, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  16. Curt

    Ok Mitt, tell us what you would do. Probably bomb China. Romney is quick to offer fault but I don't think I've ever heard him come up with any solutions to anything. Maybe Mitts 5 trustfund sons could join the military and go over to China and sort this out. When is this country going to learn to mind their own business. The U.S. has enough problems of their own. ( high unemployment, poverty, high crime, foreclosures just to name a few. )

    May 3, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  17. gg

    time to sanction communist china-republicans won,t do that china is the biggest part of romneys recovery plan, made in china ,sold in usa 8.50 to 9.50 a hr –no vacation no benifits

    May 3, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  18. Democrat Class Warfare - Destroying the economy, destroying the country

    Jeetu - Surely, being on China's soil, we cannot bring Chen or anyone else to USA just like that.
    Which is why they needed to keep him in the embassy. The US embassy is US SOIL.

    This could blow up in Hllary Clinton's face as well as Obama's. They'd better get this guy back into the embassy with his family and then over to the USA.

    May 3, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  19. Devon

    @ corporations are people too. WORD!!! Is this guy ever gonna lose the skirt & take actual questions fron actual reporters. !st question. Mr Personality, what do you think of the Lilly Ledbedder act??? Richie Rich Romney replies, OK session over. What a SEVERE coward!!

    May 3, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  20. Lynda/Minnesota

    This man's willingness to jump into one unfamiliar issue to the next without having any clue what the logistics are is astounding. No doubt leaders around the world are watching, and listening, ready to use it against America should he ever become President. And for those of you who might suggest I'm fear-mongering – I'm not. It's one thing to "complain" and quite another to "govern". Mitt is losing both arguments with his willingness to involve himself in ongoing diplomatic concerns he has absolutely no knowledgeable information of. He's been doing it for months now.

    May 3, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  21. Data Driven

    Romney continues to compound his errors in what has been a bad week of foreign policy debate for him. He really ought to stick to economic issues–his points on that subject are still wrong, but at least he won't be pouring gasoline on delicate diplomatic issues.

    In any case, Romney's reaction to this story, apart from demonstrating his enslavement to 24-hour cable news cycles, also demonstrates his short-sighted foreign policy philosophy. We're playing a long game with China; it would be stupid to hamstring diplomatic relations over this one guy, Chen. With all due respect to Mr. Chen, trade relations favorable to America are more important to me than the fate of yet another Chinese dissident, sorry. It's up to the Chinese if they want a less repressive government. It's up to them to bleed and die for it, if they want freedom that badly. It's not up to us.

    May 3, 2012 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  22. Jane

    Big words from someone whose only foreign policy experience is monitoring his Swiss and Cayman Island accounts. And whose only experience with military service is....wait....never mind.

    May 3, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  23. Willis

    He reminds me of the Sat Night Live skit, He is truely a Girly Man. Spineless, Hertless, Souless, time to get outside the Bubble Bishop, What a WUSS!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 3, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  24. PaulCat

    Does he ever lead?

    May 3, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  25. Ken in MD

    "Romney said he is disappointed in reports that indicate the current administration "probably sped up or may have sped up the process" of his decision to leave the embassy..."

    What reports? Did he read it on someone's blog? Fox "News" report? Sounds lke a lot of conjecture to me. Does he have a single shred of evidence that that actually happened?

    I'm disturbed by reports suggesting that Romney said Chen should be executed. Did he actually say that? Who cares? All I said was that there were "reports" that suggested it.

    May 3, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
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