(CBS News) What was supposed to have been two days of high level talks between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and Chinese leaders has turned into a diplomatic fiasco over the fate of one man.
CBS News correspondent David Martin reports that, at first, it was all smiles and hugs. Chen Guancheng couldn't thank American diplomats enough. He even phoned Secretary Clinton to personally thank her. For their part, the Americans seemed delighted to have ended a standoff that began six days ago when Chen escaped from house arrest and took refuge in the U.S. embassy.
Then, as Chen was taken to a Chinese hospital to be reunited with his family, the wheels started to come off a deal which was supposed to have allowed him to remain in China free of persecution. It happened just as Chris Johnson, who until two weeks ago was the CIA's top China analyst, predicted it would.
"In terms of trying to somehow negotiate with the Chinese a means to guarantee his safety within China, there's just too much chance that the Chinese regime would renege and then the administration would look terrible," Johnson said.
From his hospital room, Chen called western reporters and fellow dissidents, saying he'd been coerced into leaving the safety of the American embassy.
"(Chen) talked to me," one dissident tweeted. "(He) did not want to leave the embassy, but he had no choice because if he did not leave (his wife) would be sent back" to house arrest.
Chen was also quoted as saying he now fears for his safety and that of his family and wants to come to the U.S. American officials insist that throughout his six days at the embassy, Chen insisted on remaining in China and that he left the embassy voluntarily, after they negotiated the best deal possible with the Chinese government.
What has been described as the biggest test of U.S.-Chinese relations in 20 years is not over yet. Among other things, the Chinese are demanding the U.S. apologize for meddling in their internal affairs.
Below, watch longtime Asia correspondent Holly Williams in Beijing from CBS News' British partner Sky News talk with CBS News anchor Scott Pelley about the situation on the ground there.