Interview With Karson Yiu of ABC News

Gary Locke
Ambassador to China
Ritz Carlton Hotel
Beijing, China
May 3, 2012

QUESTION: So Ambassador, ABC News was able to talk to Chen Guangcheng earlier this morning. And he told us that U.S. officials were blocked from being able to see him. Were U.S. officials able to see him today?

AMBASSADOR LOCKE: Well, actually, our first scheduled visit was for tomorrow, but we have talked with him twice today, and his wife even came out of the hospital to talk with my deputy at great length. Our doctors have been in constant contact with his doctors, conferring what was a medical test. Today was always meant to be a day of medical tests.

QUESTION: And did you get any update on how – what his – what he’s thinking, what his current status is?

AMBASSADOR LOCKE: Well, it’s apparent that he’s had some sort of change of heart. And so when we’re able to meet with him, we’re going to discuss this thoroughly with him and his wife and really find out what it is that they want to do and explore the options and discuss the options.

QUESTION: The pictures that the Embassy released yesterday – it showed a very different sentiment. What’s your take? What happened here?

AMBASSADOR LOCKE: Well, first of all, we have long admired Mr. Chen, and he’s such a courageous individual. And when we found out that he was first in Beijing having escaped from the village, we met with him in the wee hours of the morning and then extracted or conducted almost like a “Mission Impossible” maneuver to get him into the Embassy.

And we have always been focused on what he wanted. From day one, he said he did not want to go to the United States. In fact, he was telling me of his activist friends throughout the world before he came into the Embassy, that he did not want to come to the United States. He wanted to remain in China to be a freedom fighter. And he also indicated to us he wanted to be reunified with his family. He hasn’t seen his son in over two years. And he wanted a full investigation of the abuses that he and his family had suffered in the village. So we were always presenting proposals on his behalf to the Chinese Government.

QUESTION: Why do you think he had a sudden change of heart?

AMBASSADOR LOCKE: There’s a lot going through his head. It’s a very emotional time. But nonetheless, we need to sit down and chat with him and his wife together and find out exactly what it is that they want, what they’re thinking. And we’re going to have to explore the options with them.

QUESTION: But after what happened last night of him talking to the media all night, wouldn’t it be almost imperative to talk to him today to figure out what’s going on?

AMBASSADOR LOCKE: Well, again, we did have two telephone conversations with him today, and his wife came out of the hospital and talked with my deputy at great length. So today was always meant to be a day of testing, a lot of medical procedures. We’re – our doctors are scheduled --

QUESTION: Can you tell me what he said or --

AMBASSADOR LOCKE: Well, just exactly what you’ve indicated, that he’s had a change of heart, apparently a change of heart, is thinking now that he wants to go to the United States. But in all the time that he was at the Embassy, and even in his discussions and the taped video that he released, he said he wanted to stay in China to be a freedom fighter.

At one point, when the Chinese response to our proposals was not to his liking he said, “No. I’m not going to leave the Embassy.” And we respected his wishes. And we were – started talking internally about what it is that we would have to do to accommodate him living in the Embassy for perhaps several years.

QUESTION: How about when you last saw him yesterday? When you left him, were there any indications that he was – changed his mind? He had already talked to his wife at that point.

AMBASSADOR LOCKE: Yesterday at the Embassy, we had enabled him to talk to his wife twice after she had arrived at the hospital. That was actually his idea.

When he rejected a Chinese proposal, said it was unacceptable, and we started proceeding on how we could make him a resident of the Embassy, as we delivered dinner to him that night, one of our people said, “Have you had a change of heart or anything? Is this your still – still your intention?” He said, “Yes.” And then he went on to say, “Why can’t the Chinese take a first step? They’re asking me to come out of the Embassy and they’re going to promise all these things after I leave the Embassy. Why won’t they do something first as an act of good faith so I can see if they’re sincere?” And then he said, “Why won’t the Chinese Government bring my family up to the hospital first, and then I can talk to them when they’re in the hospital to make sure that they’re safe?”

The Chinese agreed to do that, and so he said if they do that he’s prepared to leave the Embassy, will leave the Embassy, but only after he had another conversation with his wife. And so he had that conversation, and then we said, “What’s your decision?”

QUESTION: But once again, maybe what’s happened --

AMBASSADOR LOCKE: Let me just say that – and we said, “What’s your decision?” And then he was quiet for several minutes, just quiet for several minutes. And then he jumped up and said, “Let’s go.” And then even before we got into the van I asked him again one more time, “This is what you really want to do? Do you want to leave the Embassy?” And he said, “Yes.”

QUESTION: Did he clearly know the implications of leaving the Embassy?

AMBASSADOR LOCKE: He knew, because we also said that it’s – life is going to be difficult; it’s not going to be a bed of roses. I mean, he was fully aware of that and knew that it was going to be very, very challenging. He also knew what life would be like if he were still in the Embassy and his family was still in the village.

QUESTION: But given what’s happened to him in the past, and even his supporters are being silenced right now, how certain were you of his safety once you left the Embassy? Or has – is the U.S. is now – is the U.S. now responsible for his safety?

AMBASSADOR LOCKE: Well, we’ve very, very supportive of him, and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that he is safe and secure. But his wife and he have been able to make contact with the media, with you, all their friends, and talking with lawyers, his lawyer and others. So again, his wife was able to come out of the Embassy on her own free will to talk with us.

QUESTION: Is asylum still on the table?

AMBASSADOR LOCKE: Again, he has never asked for asylum. He never asked for asylum at any point while he was at the Embassy. And even in his video that he released, he said he wanted to be a freedom fighter in China. And even the activist friends that he contacted before he came to the Embassy reaffirmed and made all these statements that he does not want to come to the United States.

But the thing is it’s apparent that he’s had some change of heart. We’ve got to deal with that, and so we want to sit down with him and his family together, his wife together. Let’s find out exactly what they’re thinking and let’s explore the options.

QUESTION: It seems like he wants asylum now.

AMBASSADOR LOCKE: Well, we’re going to have to sit down and explore those options with him.

QUESTION: Great. Thank you.


PRN: 2012/T63-03