(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.