Category Archives: Chen Guangcheng

“Lunch with the FT: Chen Guangcheng”

FT sits down with Chen, who has now been in America for a few months:

Lunch, ordered in by Chen’s minders, is an excellent, enormous Italian meal of pasta, pizza and salads from Otto Enoteca Pizzeria on nearby Fifth Avenue. Before we start eating, he asks if he can hold my digital recorder. “I have a deep fondness for audio recorders,” he tells me, as he examines my device with his fingertips. “I was given one in 2005 that I used to document accounts of the government’s violent family planning practices. It survived countless confiscation raids on my house and I still have it today.”

When I ask whether he’s worried about becoming irrelevant back home, as has happened to other dissidents once exiled to the west, he disagrees forcefully. He can, he says, still communicate with people in China. “When I was in prison I couldn’t even call my wife on the telephone, except for once a month,” he says. “But did I have more influence when I went into jail or when I came out? Do you think my communication with friends in China will be easier or harder now than when I was in prison? I believe I’ve answered your question.”

Chen’s “first demand”, as he calls it, is that the Chinese government obeys its own laws and its own constitution, which ostensibly guarantees human rights, freedom of speech and many other values that are taken for granted in the west. “When you read China’s constitution, you realise that if we could only fulfil those basic requirements then China would be a great country,” he says. “China’s laws themselves are not the problem, the problem is that they are not properly enforced in real life.”

This is both what makes Chen’s case poignant and what makes him so dangerous for China’s rulers – his activism is based on simply asking the authorities to live up to their own pronouncements.

He continues, emphatically: “China will see democracy, I’m one hundred per cent sure – it just needs time. If everyone makes an effort to build a more just and civil society then it will come faster and if everyone stands by and does nothing, then it will come slower but is still inevitable. Whether the authorities wish it to or not, the dawn comes and the day breaks just the same.”

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“Pressure for Change is at the Grassroots”

Ian Johnson has an interview with Chen Guangcheng in the NYRoB:

Ian Johnson: How do you account for Chinese officials’ frequent disregard of China’s own laws? Is it a lack of checks and balances—that officials think they can get away with anything so they do anything?

Chen Guangcheng: It’s also that they don’t dare do the right thing and don’t dare not do the wrong thing. Chinese police and prosecutors, do you think they don’t understand Chinese law? They definitely understand. But these people illegally kept me under detention. They all knew [that what they were doing was illegal] but they didn’t dare take a step to rectify the situation. They weren’t able to. Why is it like this? A Xinhua News Agency journalist came and saw me twice; as a result he lost his job. So you can see that once you enter the system, you need to become bad. If you don’t become bad, you can’t survive.

People abroad look at China’s human rights situation and they mainly see the situation of better-known people. But they don’t know about all the violations of ordinary people. You know my situation but you don’t know the situation of the huge number of the disabled in China, or the women who are bullied and abused, or the orphans in China. You probably don’t know much about them or just about a few of them. But this is why the officials are so afraid—because they know the true extent of the problem. They are terribly afraid of people organizing. It’s very delicate in the countryside now. This is why they constantly resort to detentions and so on. They don’t even try to find an excuse, they just do it—they are that scared.

So officials are aware it’s tense in the countryside?

There is nothing the leaders can do. There is a saying in China that if you are not correct, how can you correct others? Their sons and daughters have moved overseas and they are working in China all by themselves. How can they convince others? They gain money illegally together, and they get corrupted all together. They can’t blame each other. But they are very clear that if it continues like this they are going to be devastated.

Was this earthquake, for this current generation, like the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen massacre was for the last generation?

No. June 4 was really big, even in the countryside. In the countryside, in the summer people have a habit of sitting around together after dinner to talk about things and escape the heat. They know exactly what happened on June 4. Everyone knows that a lot of people died, that the tanks crushed a lot of people. No one thinks that June 4 was a small thing. People still refer to it. If there’s a dispute with the government and people are discussing it, they’ll say “Right or wrong, what can we do? Weren’t the students right on June 4, but they were crushed to death? What chance do we have?”

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“Will Chinese justice rescue my detained nephew?”

The latest from Chen Guangcheng, still trying to stay reasonable in the midst of a very unreasonable situation:

On April 26, the local officials who had abused me and my family for seven years turned their shameless savagery against my brother, Chen Guangfu, and his family. That night, more than 30 men burst into Guangfu’s farmhouse. They dragged him from his bed into a car, hooded and with his arms pinned against his back, and took him away.

The thugs, armed with helmets, shields and pickax handles, soon returned to attack Guangfu’s wife and their son, Kegui. Bleeding profusely and fearing for his life, Kegui grabbed a kitchen knife to defend himself. He wounded three of the attackers. Even then, the attackers retreated only temporarily, returning to smash furniture and confiscate mobile phones and identification papers.

Kegui called the police, but they did not respond to the emergency call for hours. When they did, the uniformed personnel took no action against their lawless colleagues. Thereafter, public security officials and their thugs openly joined forces. They stationed themselves in my brother’s home and yard and installed surveillance equipment.

They detained Kegui, charged him with attempted murder and since then have denied him access to family, friends and defense counsel of his choice. It seems that in our county one can invade another’s home and loot and beat people, and not be held accountable. Yet defense of one’s own life and property while under attack is labeled “attempted murder.”

Local officials have now offered a small amount of compensation for a portion of the property they wrongfully damaged. But they have offered neither an apology nor compensation for wrongfully wounding three members of our family, nor have they recognized the still-detained Kegui’s rights to defense counsel and a fair consideration of his case in accordance with Chinese law. Of course, destruction of furniture is wrong and must be compensated, but are the invasion of someone’s home, beating and looting not also crimes that require compensation?

Many Chinese will recall the case of Deng Yujiao: She stabbed to death a drunken local official who was trying to rape her in 2009 and was charged with intentional assault. A massive public outcry pressured authorities to release her without punishment. When there is justice within, no evil can sway it. I believe the Chinese people have a strong sense of justice. They will not sit idly but will do what is right.

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“China’s Real Soft Power: Chen Guangcheng”

Chen Guangcheng addressed the Council on Foreign Relations this morning, leading to this CFR blog post:

In his moving and often profound commentary on May 31 here at the Council on Foreign Relations, Chen revealed himself as an optimist and a Chinese patriot: optimistic about his own future and ability to travel back and forth between China and the rest of the world; optimistic about the inherent goodness of the Chinese people, who want to do the right thing; and optimistic that democracy—in one form or another—will emerge sooner rather than later in China.

Of course, part of Chen’s story underscores the dark side of contemporary Chinese political life: the extreme and pervasive levels of corruption and violence—who knew that a senior Shandong official blew up his mistress of thirteen years with a remote-control bomb?—the continued threats to the safety and well-being of Chen’s own family members who remain in China, and the utter system of lawlessness that pervades the local system of governance. Yet, Chen, in his remarks, never wavered in his belief that time was on the side of right.

For the most part, however, Chen, like many Chinese and outside observers, recognizes that change in China will be fundamentally a function of the Chinese people—the path they choose, and the steps they take. And here too, he is an optimist, noting that the ability of the Chinese people to disseminate information means that change will come quickly.

In the end, Chen accomplished in an hour of free speech what the billions of dollars behind China’s go-out media strategy have never achieved: a balanced and nuanced portrayal of this complex country that left his audience with not only a better understanding of China but also a greater admiration for the Chinese people themselves. Now it is just up to Beijing to live up to Chen’s faith.

Exactly right- although foreigners can play a supporting role for pro-reform forces in China, ultimately the move will have to be made by the Chinese themselves.

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“How China Flouts Its Laws”

Whoa. Chen Guangcheng, who just a few short weeks ago seemed doomed to suffer extralegal house arrest and beatings for years to come, has written an op-ed for the NYT from the safety of New York:

High officials from the Chinese government assured me that a thorough and public investigation would take place and that they would inform me of the results. I hope that this promise will be honored. But the government has often failed to fulfill similar commitments. I urge the government and people of the United States and other democratic countries to insist that the Chinese government make timely progress in this matter.

The central government and the authorities in Shandong Province, Linyi City and Yinan County have many questions to answer. Why, beginning in 2005, did they illegally confine my family and me to our house in Dongshigu Village, cutting us off from all contact with other villagers and the world? Why, in 2006, did they falsely accuse me of damaging property and gathering a crowd to interfere with traffic and then, after farcical trials that excluded my witnesses and defense counsel, send me to prison for 51 months? On what legal basis, following my release from prison in 2010, did they turn our home into another, equally harsh, prison?

The fundamental question the Chinese government must face is lawlessness. China does not lack laws, but the rule of law. As a result, those who handled my case were able to openly flout the nation’s laws in many ways for many years.

After the local police discovered my escape from my village in April, a furious pack of thugs — not one in uniform, bearing no search or arrest warrants and refusing to identify themselves — scaled the wall of my brother Guangfu’s farmhouse in the dead of night, smashed through the doors and brutally assaulted my brother.

After detaining him, the gang returned twice more, severely beating my sister-in-law and nephew with pickax handles. At that point, Kegui tried to fend them off by seizing a kitchen knife and stabbing, but not killing, three of the attackers.

Kegui, who is 32 years old, was then detained in Yinan County and, absurdly, charged with attempted homicide. No one has been able to reach him, and he has most likely been tortured even more severely than his father was. Although China signed the United Nations convention against torture in 1988 and has enacted domestic laws to implement it, torture to extract confessions is still prevalent.

Any serious investigation of the injustices that we and hundreds of thousands of others have suffered must determine who is beating, kidnapping, disbarring and prosecuting these lawyers and threatening their families, and why defendants are compelled to accept the nominal legal assistance of government-employed lawyers instead of counsel of their choosing.

China’s government must confront these crucial differences between the law on the books and the law in practice.

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“Brother of Blind Chinese Dissident Escapes Guarded Village”

Although Chen Guangcheng is safely in America by now, people have been worried about his extended family and the activists who helped him escape from Linyi. Apparently the guards who have kept them under wraps are farcically incompetent, though, because another Chen has escaped and made it to Beijing:

The brother, Chen Guangfu, said he came to Beijing to advocate on behalf of his son, who has been in police custody since attacking a group of plainclothes officers who broke into the family home in their search for Chen Guangcheng. He also said the family’s village in the northeastern province of Shandong has been subjected to the same severe restrictions that drove his brother to seek sanctuary in the American diplomatic compound.

Mr. Chen, 55, a farmer and itinerant laborer, said he slipped out of the village on Tuesday around 3 a.m. while his minders slept.

In the unwritten deal that paved the way for Mr. Chen to leave the embassy, Chinese officials said they would investigate the local Shandong officials who orchestrated his 19 months of house arrest — and the retributive beatings periodically administered to him and his wife.

It is unclear whether such an investigation has begun.

“There is still some hope but if nothing is done, it shows that these were just empty promises,” said Wang Songlian, a researcher at Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

So far it appears that Mr. Chen’s relatives in rural Shandong have suffered the most. Chen Guangfu, the older brother who arrived in Beijing on Wednesday, says he was whipped and stomped on by angry interrogators who wanted to know how a blind man could have evaded dozens of guards and scaled several high walls. The abuse, he said, lasted 48 hours.

But it is Chen Guangfu’s son, Chen Kegui, 32, who stands to lose the most. He is being held at a detention center in Yinan County and faces attempted homicide charges. According to lawyers the family asked to defend him, Chen Kegui slashed several officers who broke down the door of his family’s home shortly before midnight on April 27. The men, he claims, did not identify themselves as police officials and were beating his mother.

Chen Kegui went into hiding but was later apprehended.

The authorities have rebuffed the dozen or so lawyers who stepped forward to represent Chen Kegui. One says he had his license revoked, and several others claim travel bans or threats have prevented them from traveling to Shandong.

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“Blind Chinese activist leaves Beijing for U.S.”

Great news of the day- Chen is currently on a plane headed for Newark (via Reuters):

China’s Foreign Ministry limited its commentary to an acknowledgement that Chen had left the country.

“Chen Guangcheng is a Chinese citizen. China’s relevant departments have handled the procedures for exiting the country in accordance with the law,” the ministry said in a faxed statement to Reuters.

State news agency Xinhua said earlier that Chen had applied to study in the United States under legal procedures. The Foreign Ministry said this month that Chen could apply to study abroad, a move seen as a way of easing Sino-U.S. tensions on human rights.

Chen’s friend, Jiang Tianyong, cited the activist, one of China’s most prominent dissidents, as saying that he and his family obtained their passports at the airport hours before he was due to board a flight.

“I’m obviously very happy,” Jiang said. “When he boards the plane, he can finally say: ‘I’m free’. At the same time, I feel a sense of regret because such a large country like China can’t even tolerate a citizen like him to exist here.”

Chen’s confinement, his escape and the furor that ensued have made him part of China’s dissident folklore: a blind prisoner outfoxing Communist Party controls in an echo of the man who stood down an army tank near Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Chen’s supporters, however, welcomed his departure, saying he had indicated that he would like to return to China.

“I even told him…that he has to do a repeat of him scaling walls. If not, we wouldn’t be able to believe it,” Nanjing-based activist He Peirong said of her earlier conversation with Chen. She was one of six activists who drove Chen from Shandong to Beijing after his escape.

Phelim Kine, senior Asia researcher at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said “getting Chen Guangcheng and his family on a plane is the easiest part of this saga.

“The harder, longer term part is ensuring his right under international law to return to China when he sees fit,” Kine said in an emailed statement.

The village of Dongshigu, where Chen’s mother and other relatives remain, is still under lockdown.

Chen’s nephew, Chen Kegui, was denied his family’s choice of lawyers on Friday to defend a charge of “intentional homicide”, the latest in a series of moves to deny him legal representation, and underscores the hardline stance taken against the blind dissident’s family.

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“Chinese Activist to Receive Passports in 2 Weeks”

People have been watching closely as the Chinese government slowly moves forward on allowing Chen out of the country, and the latest via VOA sounds promising:

Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng says he and his family will be issued passports to leave the country within the next two weeks.

Chen told Western reporters Thursday that Shangdong provincial security officials brought visa applications for him and his family to fill out the day before, and that passport photos were taken. On Wednesday, Chen discussed the issue in an interview with VOA’s Mandarin Service.

“Today I applied for a passport. Today I filled forms out,” Chen told VOA. “[They] said within 15 days [I will receive my passport].”

Once Chen and his family receive the passports, they can travel to the United States, where he has been offered a fellowship by New York University.

Officials in Shangdong province have charged Chen Guangcheng’s nephew, Chen Kegui, with attempted homicide after he allegedly attacked local officials who broke into the elder Chen’s house after his escape.

The advocacy group Chinese Human Rights Defenders says it learned that Chen Guangcheng’s brother, Chen Guangfu, was tortured by authorities shortly after the other man’s escape.

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“Behind Twists of Diplomacy in the Case of a Chinese Dissident”

The NYT seems to have cleared up some of the mysteries that arose during the first few days after Chen arrived in Beijing, in one of the most definitive accounts to have reached the press thus far:

“I don’t want to talk to him anymore,” Cui Tiankai, the vice foreign minister, erupted after Mrs. Clinton intervened, gesturing toward Kurt M. Campbell, an assistant secretary of state and a crucial negotiator.

The confrontation was a pivotal moment in a diplomatic drama replete with unanticipated twists, threats and counterthreats, and at times comical intrigue. Mr. Campbell, for example, took to sneaking out of his hotel in Beijing through an entrance by the garbage bins to avoid public attention.

The Chinese security apparatus, meanwhile, aggressively tapped and blocked phone calls by embassy officials, with an agent at one point brazenly dialing into a conversation between Mr. Chen and his wife on the cellphone of the deputy chief of mission, Robert S. Wang. The Americans, fearing that the Chinese would restrict access to Mr. Chen’s hospital, even considered disguising an employee as a nurse to gain entry.

Mr. Chen’s case highlighted what the Americans view as an intensifying struggle within the Chinese leadership between hard-liners and reformers. At one point during the talks, the State Department’s legal adviser, Harold H. Koh, encountered officials from China’s powerful Ministry of State Security arguing in the hallway with their counterparts from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, saying Mr. Chen should be punished, not coddled by the Americans.

Even so, the officials said they knew nothing of his preparations to escape from his farmhouse on the night of April 22.

They learned of it only when a rights advocate called the embassy three days later and told officials there that he was in hiding on the outskirts of Beijing, his foot broken from a fall during the escape.

After a late-night meeting at the State Department on April 25, Mrs. Clinton approved a plan to spirit him into the embassy, an operation that involved hustling him from one car to another twice.

The scene at the hospital quickly became confused. The Chinese did not object to allowing an American diplomat to stay overnight, contrary to reports that prompted the criticism. As with much of the story, the moment turned less on geopolitics than on human relations. The diplomat, in fact, left because he believed that Mr. Chen wanted privacy with his wife.

Thursday was chaotic, as reports that the agreement had fallen apart led Republican critics to castigate the administration. At the hospital, Mr. Chen underwent lengthy examinations, preventing the Americans from contacting him directly. Doctors found that he was suffering not from cancer, but from colitis.

In her meeting with Mr. Dai, the foreign policy official, on Friday, Mrs. Clinton never explicitly asked for anything. She made it clear, however, that she would have to speak about Mr. Chen when she appeared before the press. The subtlety worked: within hours, the Chinese released a statement that Mr. Chen could travel to study abroad like any citizen, and the State Department announced that it would expedite any request for a visa.

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Chen Guangcheng, Round Three

The news has slowed now that it’s night in China, but people are still trying to piece together exactly what happened today. From a Times story:

In unprecedented diplomatic negotiations with the Chinese starting Monday, Cohen and his colleagues laid out Chen’s options. He could leave and seek asylum in the U.S. while his wife and daughter would likely remain under house arrest in Shandong, or he could choose to stay in China. If he chose the latter, U.S. negotiators would seek assurances from the Chinese government that Chen and his family would not return to the abusive circumstances under which they lived for the last seven years. Cohen advocated a middle path to Chen, based on a deal forged by Chinese activist Ai Weiwei, with whom Cohen has also worked. Chinese officials released Ai from detention last June after 81 days and allowed him to travel freely within Beijing; he recently gave a Skype speech to hundreds of supporters. “Though this solution has caused some problems for the government, they have tolerated it because they know it’s better than the international condemnation of locking him up. Ai is showing a kind of path we are trying hard to create, a space between prison and total freedom,” Cohen told reporters on a call sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations. “That’s a kind of precedent I’ve talked to Chen about.”

Chinese negotiators offered to allow Chen to study law – a long-standing request – at one of seven universities that also have blind institutions – none in Beijing or Shanghai, though two in nearby cities. He would be treated as any other law student, they said, and his family could live with him. His wife, who also has an avid interest in law, reads aloud to Chen. “What restrictions he’ll be under in terms of talking to friends, making public statements, writing an opinion on one legal ruling or another remains to be seen,” Cohen said.

By Tuesday, Chen was feeling better about the arrangement and by the time he left the embassy he was comfortable with it, Cohen said.

The reports that Chen now feels coerced took many U.S. officials by surprise. Cohen said that while Chen never told him that anyone threatened his wife, Cohen heard from a friend of Chen’s wife on Wednesday morning that local authorities in Shandong had threatened to beat her to death if her husband left the country. Chen told the AP he heard this threat from U.S. officials, but U.S. officials say they had no knowledge of that threat and did not relay it to Chen. “What could’ve happened when he got to the hospital and met his family his wife told him what had happened and that might have made him regret thedecision,” Cohen said. “He may be very susceptible. Here’s a man who’s had a very skewed perspective, living under a lot of abuse for many years.”

And from Tom Lasseter:

A close friend said in a series of online Twitter postings that Chen, blind since childhood, contacted her and said he’d abandoned the U.S. embassy out of fear for his wife’s safety. Chen had been willing to leave China if his family could’ve accompanied him, wrote Zeng Jinyan.

Zeng was not reachable by phone on Wednesday evening, though her husband, who was traveling, said he’d spoken with her and confirmed the conversation took place.

“The (Chinese) authorities brought his wife to Beijing and said that he must leave (the embassy), so Guangcheng was forced to leave,” said Hu Jia, also a Chen confidant.

Asked about Beijing’s assurance of wellbeing for Chen, Teng replied: “I have no trust in it.”

After news of Chen’s departure from the U.S. Embassy became public, the Chinese state Xinhua newswire on Wednesday said its government was demanding an apology from the Americans. It quoted Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Weiman as saying that, “What the U.S. side has done has interfered in the domestic affairs of China, and the Chinese side will never accept it.”

Many were dubious of the arrangement from the start.

“There is good reason for skepticism about whether the Chinese government is both willing and able to deliver on the conditional release of Chen Guangcheng from US diplomatic protection to a ‘safe’ location in China, particularly since neither side has identified that location or defined how it will be safe for Chen and his family,” Phelim Kine, senior Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch, said not long after the deal got announced.

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Chen Release Coverage Turns Dark, Fast

Following hours of twitter comments from Chen’s friends and family, it looks like official coverage is starting to reflect growing concerns about whether or not the US and Chen just got played. From CSM:

Confusion surrounded the fate of blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng Wednesday night, as a friend said he had told her he had been forced out of the US embassy here by threats against his family.

“Chen Guangcheng called me and asked for help, he wanted outsiders to help him,” Zeng Jinyan told the Monitor in a brief telephone interview. “He said that at least he wanted his whole family to leave China.”

“Guangcheng did not want to leave the embassy but he had no choice,” she claimed in one post, since “if he did not Yuan Weijing [his wife] would be sent back to Shandong” where she and her husband have been under illegal house arrest for the past 19 months, suffering repeated beatings.

Zeng, who sounded highly stressed, refused to elaborate on her claims, which contradicted US accounts of the deal that US diplomats had helped Chen strike to secure his freedom.

The Guardian has quotes from Bequelin, who has also been lighting up Twitter over the last few hours:

“It raises the question of whether we can trust the promises not to retaliate against Chen Guangcheng and his family and supporters,” said Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch.

“It’s very difficult to see how China can honour the bargain given that the suppression of human rights activists and government critics are embedded in its political situation. This is what they do day in and out. There are no reassurances I can trust that Chen and his family will remain safe in the long term.”

Wang Songlian, of the Chinese Human Rights Defenders network, warned: “If he’s going to stay in China, reassurances are not very reassuring because the Chinese government has a record of not honouring its words regarding human rights.”

“The most worrying part is that his extended family is in Shandong and authorities could retaliate by detaining or torturing them. We know four are in custody and one [his nephew, Chen Kegui] is accused of injuring government officials.”

She gave short shrift to the Chinese demand that the US say sorry over Chen’s case.

“I think it’s incredible that the Chinese government would ask for an apology from the US when it has unlawfully put a human rights activist and his family under house arrest for so long,” Wang said.

Adding to the confusion is this WaPo article, which claims that the threat against the life of Chen’s wife was made after he arrived at the hospital and was relayed by US embassy staff, which is odd for a number of reasons:

In an interview from his room at Chaoyang Hospital, Chen told the Associated Press that he had been informed that his wife would be beaten to death if he did not leave the embassy. He said that U.S. officials relayed the threat.

Chen said he fears for his own safety as well, the wire service reported, and–contrary to previous reports–wants to leave China.

What initially seemed like a potential victory on the human rights front for the U.S. administration spiraled quickly into a potentially worst-case scenario, fueled by a series of updates blasting out regularly on Twitter. Chen was no longer under American protection, but in a Beijing hospital surrounded by Chinese plainclothes police. It was not clear whether Chen had left on his own free will, as U.S. officials maintained, or under coercion.

Still more as it comes in…

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Chen Guangcheng Leaves US Embassy

But it sounds like China may have issued a number of threats to get him out, and it’s unclear what guarantees China has provided regarding his safety in the future. From FP:

In the end, the deal they negotiated seemed to offer Chen promises, but no real guarantees. As outlined by the Americans, it included the following: a promise not only to reunite Chen with his wife and two children but also that he “will be treated humanely,” that U.S officials would have access to him in the hospital; that he would ultimately be “relocated to a safe environment,” and would have the opportunity to attend a university to continue his self-guided studies in law. There was no word on the other human rights activists who have apparently been rounded up in recent days after helping Chen’s escape; only the American officials urging the authorities “to take no retribution” against them.

WaPo has a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry, which is really lashing out on this one:

“The U.S. method was interference in Chinese domestic affairs, and this is totally unacceptable to China,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said, according to the state-run news agency Xinhua. “China demands that the United States apologize over this, thoroughly investigate this incident, punish those who are responsible, and give assurances that such incidents will not happen again.”

Chen’s case had presented the U.S. with a thorny diplomatic dilemma. Chen wanted to remain in China to fight for people’s rights, friends said. But with security officials rounding up the activists who helped Chen escape and who sheltered him, U.S. diplomats risked seeing Chen arrested if he left the embassy without some formal guarantees for his safety.

Chen made clear to U.S. diplomats from the beginning that he did not want to leave China and that he wanted his stay in the embassy to be temporary, officials said. He did not seek asylum. His priority was reuniting with his wife, two children and other family members. He has been separated from his son for about two years.

Finally, there are a lot of unconfirmed details about threats used by Beijing to force Chen out of the embassy- for now, the end of this Useless Tree post on the subject:

In a sense, the most important political phase of the Chen Guangcheng saga has just begun. He has become more than a symbol of Chinese law and politics; he is now the crux of reform or repression.

And there may be reason for pessimism. There are now tweets and reports from Zeng Jinyan – a Chinese human rights activist and wife of Hu Jia – that Chen was forced to leave the embassy with threats from Chinese authorities that if he did not leave his wife and daughter would be sent back to Shandong immediately. This could mean that the Chinese government is playing a short-term game: get Chen out of the embassy and deal with him a bit later, after media attention has died down.

The AP is reporting that not only would his wife have been returned to Shandong province, but also that she would have been beaten to death. We’ll see.

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“Is Chen Guangcheng the Next Fang Lizhi?”

I should really just let Perry Link post things directly to this site, because I end up re-posting them every single time. This time the subject is Chen Guangcheng, and after describing the circumstances under which Fang Lizhi went into exile in the immediate aftermath of the Tiananmen protests Link concludes that:

The eventual solution of the Fang case was to negotiate Fang’s and Li’s exile: As Fang later wrote in The New York Review, Deng Xiaoping’s key demand in the negotiations was that the US lift its economic sanctions on China—a condition the US was unwilling to meet. But in June 1990, the Japanese government promised to resume loan programs to China, and with that Deng agreed to release Fang and Li as part of the package. The Chinese government demanded in addition that Fang agree to “no anti-China activity” after his release. Fang accepted this demand, but repeatedly made it clear that to criticize China’s ruling regime was hardly “anti-China.” He persisted with his criticisms, which he saw as supportive of China.

Today, for Chen Guangcheng, the two governments might agree that exile is the least awkward solution from their points of view, but Chen may not accept it. Chinese dissidents have learned over the past two decades that exile leads to a sharp decline in a person’s ability to make a difference inside China. Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who is now in his third year of an eleven-year prison sentence for “subversion,” made it clear after his arrest that he would not accept exile as an alternative to prison. From what friends of Chen in Beijing have been saying in recent days, it seems that Chen is taking a similar position.

Another important difference between the Chen and Fang cases is that Chen has a broader following among average Chinese people than Fang had. Fang was a hero to university students and some intellectuals. But most Chinese did not know him, and what they did hear of him were highly distorted accounts in the government-controlled press. Even before the 1989 crackdown, government television was broadcasting images of government-orchestrated “protests” in which farmers were burning Fang Lizhi in effigy. Many people, having no other sources on Fang, accepted such accounts. Today, though, with the Internet, far greater numbers of Chinese—millions of people including many outside of the big cities—know the true story of Chen than ever knew the story of Fang. And to judge from the many accounts circulating on microblogs and elsewhere, hardly anyone seems to view Chen with anything but sympathy.

Chen is seen not as an elite intellectual but as an “ordinary person” who taught himself law to help other ordinary people, and then was imprisoned and persecuted—and is blind to boot. For the Chinese authorities to accuse him of treason or to blame meddling foreigners for helping him will be a hard sell.

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“Chen Guangcheng went to U.S. Embassy for protection, friends say”

There are a few more details about Chen’s escape now, although his exact location now is still unknown. The US embassy seems like a good bet though, based on what his friends and allies are saying:

The activists interviewed — some of whom were involved in helping Chen evade authorities for a week here in Beijing — said they believed Chen did not intend to seek political asylum but was sheltering in a U.S. diplomatic compound for protection and wanted to remain in China to continue his campaign for democratic rights and the rule of law.

“He believes that China is in a period of intensive changes now and it’s not far away from the final fundamental change,” said Hu Jia, a Beijing activist who said he met with Chen on Wednesday. “He told me he didn’t want to ask for political asylum in the U.S. Instead, he wants to ‘stay in this land and continue to fight.’ ”

Hu said he and Chen met in the same room in Beijing where Chen recorded a video, broadcast on YouTube, in which he calls on Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to protect his family and investigate corruption in Linyi City, in Shandong province, where Chen’s home village of Dongshigu is located. Hu described going to meet Chen at a safehouse, wearing a raincoat for concealment, and said he did not take a cellphone, to avoid being tracked.

He said that after their hour-plus-long meeting, where they first hugged and then held hands the entire time, Chen moved to a new secret location.

“We discussed where was a safe place for him in Beijing,” Hu said. “But we couldn’t figure out any absolutely safe place in Beijing except the U.S. Embassy.”

The Beijing activists were also concerned about the fate of their Nanjing-based colleague He Peirong, also known as Pearl, who had driven Chen to Beijing and dropped him off but was arrested after returning to Nanjing. The activists said that He’s only role was to bring Chen to the capital and that they deliberately left her in the dark about the plan to get him into the hands of U.S. diplomats so that she would not be implicated.

Chen’s brother and nephew were also detained, and there were growing fears for the safety of Chen’s wife, mother and daughter, left behind in the village.

Also Saturday, new details emerged from activists about Chen’s spectacular escape. His plan was two months in the making, and late on April 21, a moonless night, he waited until the normal time for the changing of the guards who were keeping him under house arrest.

Chen had to climb over a high wall, but he hurt his leg badly when he jumped down on the far side, the activists said. After a long pause, he limped away in the darkness — not an impediment for Chen, who has been blind since childhood — past eight lines of plainclothes thugs blocking access to his farmhouse. He told friends he walked alone, and fell more than a hundred times, before he finally managed to contact He Peirong for a ride to Beijing.

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Filed under activism, Chen Guangcheng, enforced disappearance