Handling of Chen Guangcheng case generates political heat

(CBS News) The United States and China have finally worked out a tentative deal to end a ten day diplomatic crisis. The State Department says it now expects China to let dissident Chen Guangcheng go to the United States with his family.

A spokeswoman Friday morning said an unnamed American university has offered Chen a fellowship to study. Earlier in Beijing, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said U.S. diplomats are speaking to Chen, who left the U.S. embassy earlier this week.

"Progress has been made to help him have the future that he wants. We will be staying in touch with him as this process moves forward," Clinton said. "Let me also add, this is not just about well known activists. It's about the human rights and the aspirations of more than a billion people here in China and billions more around the world."

The case has become a diplomatic disaster for relations between the United States and China. It's now generating plenty of political heat in Washington over the administration's handling of it.

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The White House insists that it acted on Chen's behalf. "Let's make clear, that that was what Mr. Chen said he wanted," White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

On the campaign trail, presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney suggested the Obama administration was more interested in getting Chen out of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing than in protecting his human rights.

"If these reports are true, this is a dark day for freedom," Romney said. "And it's a day of shame for the Obama administration."

The White House pushed back hard against questions that Chen felt pressured to leave the U.S. Embassy because if he did not his family might be in some kind of danger.

"That's simply not the case," Carney said. "At no time did any U.S. official speak to Mr. Chen about any physical or legal threats to his wife or his children. Nor did Chinese officials make any such threats to State Department officials."

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  • Bill Plante

    Bill Plante is a CBS News Senior White House Correspondent