【 The New York Times 】   Post Date: 4/29/2012
Obama Administration in Rush to Contain Chen Crisis
Author: Steven Lee Myers and Jane Perlez
Today the White House sent a top diplomat to Beijing for dialogue regarding escaped activist Chen Guangcheng.  Chinese leadership was to meet today to discuss their game plan for the imminent arrival of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration scrambled on Sunday to contain a growing diplomatic crisis between the United States and China, sending a senior diplomat to Beijing to discuss the fate of a blind dissident who fled house arrest last week.
Amid intense secrecy, including a nearly blanket refusal to comment, the administration sought to negotiate over the safety of the dissident, Chen Guangcheng, who is said to be in American hands in Beijing — though it remained unclear late Sunday whether he was in the embassy, in a diplomatic residence or somewhere else.
The senior diplomat, Kurt M. Campbell, an assistant secretary of state, arrived Sunday to meet with Chinese officials concerning Mr. Chen’s case, and to try to keep the matter from undermining the administration’s longstanding effort to improve economic and security relations with China, senior officials and diplomats in Washington and Beijing said.
A senior American official said that China’s leadership met Sunday to work out their response to Mr. Chen’s escape before scheduled meetings this week with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. Mrs. Clinton is scheduled to leave Washington for China on Monday night, assuming the trip proceeds.
“They’re trying to figure out what they’re going to tell Hillary Clinton,” the official said of the Chinese leaders, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity surrounding the case. “We’d like to know as much as we can before she leaves.”
The administration’s effort to contain the crisis — the State Department declined to confirm that Mr. Campbell was in China even though he was photographed in a Marriott hotel in Beijing — underscored the fraught political challenge facing President Obama, at home and abroad.
“This is the greatest test in bilateral relations in years, probably going back to ’89,” said Christopher K. Johnson, until recently a senior China analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency, referring to the year of the brutal crackdown on student protests in Tiananmen Square.
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Key Words: Chen Guangcheng, human rights China, political dissidents China, Hillary Clinton
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