The New York Times, in a piece chastizing conservatives, reports that Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal advocate who has been manipulated by American conservatives to stand with them on issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and stem-cell research.
Chen dramatically escaped from Communist China after criticizing the Chinese government for its draconian family planning laws.
Conservative support elicited a negative response from the Times; the piece goes out of its way to portray Chen as a political innocent controlled by cunning American conservatives.
Chen’s fellowship at NYU has expired. Chen said that NYU ended it prematurely because of pressure from the Chinese government, whereas NYU claims it was only a one-year fellowship.
The Times wrote:
The controversy kicked up by Mr. Chen’s accusations against NYU has dismayed some of his supporters so much that a wealthy donor who had pledged to finance a three-year visiting scholar position for him at Fordham University recently withdrew the offer. That means Mr. Chen, who declined to be interviewed for this article and who returns to New York from a visit to Taiwan on Thursday, has to line up another source of financing. If that does not pan out, he will be left with a single job offer: from the Witherspoon Institute, a conservative research organization in New Jersey that is perhaps best known for its opposition to same-sex marriage and stem cell research.
Bob Fu, a former Chinese dissident granted asylum in 1997, and the president of China Aid, a Texas-based Christian group that fights the Chinese government over its harsh religious restrictions, was instrumental in getting Chen the international attention that led to his release. During a Congressional hearing that was called by Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Fu held a cellphone in the air that allowed Chen to beg the United States to give him refuge. Chen was being held in a Beijing hospital after an attempted escape.
The New York Times cast doubt on whether Chen could be anti-abortion, and attacked Fu and Smith for working with him:
Critics say Mr. Fu overstated his own role in the audacious escape and then made use of Mr. Chen’s story in fund-raising appeals to his evangelical Christian supporters. Those appeals sometimes cast Mr. Chen as an opponent of abortion. Despite his opposition to forced sterilizations and abortions, Mr. Chen has said he has no position on the divisive issue.
The Times depicts Mr. Fu as a cunning spymaster by quoting NYU officials who aver that Fu tracked Chen through a donated cellphone and tablet computer. Fu finds the NYU accusation that he is brainwashing Chen against NYU ludicrous, saying, “To accuse me of brainwashing him with religious extremism totally underestimates Chen’s intelligence. To be honest, I think the NYU folks’ efforts to feed him information about how dangerous religious people are backfired and in the end he got fed up with them. He saw we were not monsters.”
The Times then found a friend of Chen’s who warned of Chen’s corruption from conservatives. “Hu Jia, a Chinese dissident who frequently speaks with him on Skype,” told the Times, “Chen often told me he had no interest in siding with the Democratic or Republican Party, but that he was on the side of democracy and freedom. I think that maybe he got in over his head.”
The Times cuts up Rep. Smith, writing that Smith pressured Chen to testify that the Obama Administration had almost botched helping Chen find asylum in the U.S. and that Chen resisted Smith’s efforts. But Smith has said that NYU is the problem, that when he tried to meet with Chen in Smith’s office a translator Smith thinks was from NYU entered uninvited and led Chen away.
Another target of the Times is Mark Corallo, a former spokesman for Attorney General John Ashcroft who helped Chen in his fight for his fellowship against NYU. The Times wrote, “Mr. Corallo, who handled Mr. Chen’s public accusations against NYU, waved off accusations that his role in helping Mr. Chen risked tainting the rights advocate’s nonpartisan bona fides.”
The Times comments as if Chen were a political neophyte who never was involved in politics before American conservatives spoke with him.
As John Kamm, the director of the DUI HUA Foundation, an organization that advocates for Chinese political prisoners, said of Chen’s appeal, “In the dissident community, someone with his kind of stature doesn’t come along every day. His face, with those sunglasses, is the kind of Che Guevara-like image you can stick on a T-shirt.”
The problem for the Times is that Chen is not turning out to be Che Guevara. Just a pro-life individual who finally has the freedom to speak.