At one point in the improbable odyssey of dissident Chinese lawyer Chen Guangchen, it looked as if the Obama administration might have blown it. Chen, despite his blindness, had escaped from house arrest and found his way to refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

But the administration then allowed him to leave for medical treatment without a guarantee from the Chinese that he would not be taken into custody again. That risky decision subjected the administration to heavy criticism, although part of the confusion appeared to be Chen’s initial indecision about whether he wished to leave China.

In the end, the diplomats did their job. The episode disrupted the visit of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but leading figures on both sides were determined to keep tensions over Chen from escalating into a major breach between the two powers.

Chen ultimately decided to leave China. On arrival in New York, he thanked his supporters in and out of the U.S. government. He also said he appreciated the work of “cool heads” in the Chinese government who approved his departure, and voiced concern that his supporters and relatives in China could be subject to reprisals.

The latter point is important for the Obama administration. Chen’s journey from China to the United States ended well, but the case isn’t entirely closed.

Washington must make it clear it won’t turn a blind eye if Chinese authorities punish Chen’s relatives and those who helped him escape.