A diplomatic mess played out through a multimedia prism
May 4th, 2012
05:42 PM ET

A diplomatic mess played out through a multimedia prism

By Jill Dougherty reporting from Beijing

Throughout her nearly 24-hour journey from Washington to Beijing, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton avoided the cameras of journalists traveling on her plane.

For nearly a week leading up the trip - ever since the blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng had fled his village home and sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing - both the secretary and her spokespersons refused to answer any and all questions about him, save a tight-lipped "We've got nothing on that for you."

But the U.S. officials did have someting, a full-scale diplomatic mess that would play out not just behind closed doors, but through the media and social media with every few hours bringing a new twist.

His arrival had been dramatic. A U.S. official speaking on background because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue said that embassy officials took a car to retrieve Chen after he fled. Their vehicle was tailed by Chinese security and the Americans took action to evade those vehicles. Embassy staff began preparing for a long stay by Chen, possibly even a year, as another activist had done more than 20 years previously.