[Nfbmo] 2nd Story: Chinese Blind Activist escape inspires other Chinese dissidents

DanFlasar at aol.com DanFlasar at aol.com
Tue May 1 03:53:35 UTC 2012

Again, from today's Huffingtonpost, link follows text below 
BEIJING — The surprising escape of a blind legal activist from house arrest 
 to the presumed custody of U.S. diplomats is buoying China's embattled 
dissident  community even as the government lashes out, detaining those who 
helped him and  squelching mention of his name on the Internet. 
The flight of Chen Guangcheng, a campaigner for disabled rights and against 
 coercive family planning, is a challenge for China's authoritarian 
government  and, if it's confirmed he is in U.S. custody, for Washington too. 
Assistant  Secretary of State Kurt Campbell began a hurried mission to Beijing on 
Sunday to  smooth the way for annual talks involving his boss, Hillary 
Clinton, Treasury  Secretary Timothy Geithner and scores of officials. 
Though Chen – a self-taught legal activist described by friends and  
supporters as calm and charismatic – hardly seems a threat, security forces and  
officials have reacted angrily, detaining several of his supporters and a 
nephew  who fought with officials after the escape was discovered is on the 
Police showed up at the home of veteran activists Zeng Jinyan and Hu Jia, 
who  met with Chen last week while he was hiding in Beijing. Police took Hu 
away  Saturday for 24 hours. They questioned Zeng for about a half-hour at 
home,  sounding, she said, "very unhappy" about Chen's flight. 
"They were really irritated," Zeng said. "It was a big shock for them." 
Ai Xiaoming, a documentary film maker based in southern Guangzhou city, 
said  Chen's escape has had the biggest emotional impact on Chinese rights 
advocates  since jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize two years 
"There are many people now drinking toasts to him for the way he broke  
through his captivity, his difficulties, and pursued freedom," said Ai. "It's  
what we all want for ourselves in our hearts. Chen Guangcheng is an example 
to  us. If a blind person can break out of the darkness to freedom, then 
everyone  can." 
China's state-controlled media have so far ignored the story despite its  
gripping narrative and the serious implications it could have on Sino-U.S.  
relations. Anything vaguely related to Chen has been blocked on Chinese 
social  media sites, such as posts including or key word searches for Chen, 
Guangcheng,  GC, or even the words "blind person." 
The media blackout and online controls haven't prevented China's Internet  
savvy activist community from learning about or celebrating Chen's escape. 
After  state television aired a rerun Saturday of the American prison break 
film  "Shawshank Redemption," some gleefully tweeted that it was an indirect 
nod to  Chen. "Shawshank Redemption" became a banned search term. 
Chen's whereabouts have yet to be cnfirmed. Activists in China and overseas 
 have said Chen is either under U.S. protection or in the U.S. Embassy. 
Chen's escape comes as the Chinese leadership is already reeling, trying to 
 heal divisions over the ousting of a powerful politician, Bo Xilai, and 
complete  a once-a-decade transition to a new generation of leaders. As in 
Chen's case,  the U.S. is implicated: Bo's ouster was precipitated by the 
sudden flight of an  aide to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu. 
While the aide, Wang Lijun, gave himself up to Chinese authorities – and  
though Republicans have criticized President Barack Obama for letting a 
valuable  intelligence asset go – the incident and Chen's escape reaffirm 
long-held  suspicions by Beijing that the U.S. wants to undermine the communist 
government.  Late last week, the White House, in a reversal, said it was 
considering selling  new warplanes to Taiwan – the democratic island China claims 
as a breakaway  territory. 
It's not known what Chen's intentions are: some say he wants to stay in  
China. But negotiating any exit from U.S. custody is likely to be difficult 
for  the Obama administration. Beijing is likely to be wary of any 
concessions,  fearing they might embolden other activists. 
Without confirming if Chen is in U.S. hands, Obama's counterterrorism 
adviser  John Brennan said the president would work to further human rights while 
 preserving ties with Beijing. 
"I think in all instances the president tries to balance our commitment to  
human rights, making sure that the people throughout the world have the 
ability  to express themselves freely and openly, but also that we can continue 
to carry  out our relationships with key countries overseas," Brennan said 
on the U.S.  television news show "Fox News Sunday". 
Complicating any negotiations over Chen is the treatment of his family. 
While  Chen escaped a week ago from Dongshigu village and made it 600 
kilometers (370  miles) northwest to Beijing, his wife and 6-year-old daughter were 
left behind.  The whereabouts of several other relatives, including Chen's 
mother and brother,  are unknown. 
Seven lawyers have volunteered to defend Chen's nephew, Chen Kegui, who  
allegedly confronted and stabbed local officials who stormed his house in the  
middle of the night on Thursday in apparent retribution for the activist's  
One volunteer lawyer, Liu Weiguo, said he spoke with Kegui briefly Sunday  
afternoon via mobile phone. Kegui told the lawyer he was by a highway about 
120  kilometers (75 miles) from his home village, penniless and hoping to 
find a  local police station where he could turn himself in. 
"Since he escaped, they haven't punished his persecutors in Shandong"  
province, said Zeng, the Beijing activist. "Instead it's the activists and  
supporters who have been detained or disappeared. It's very clear that Chen's  
supporters and family members are very vulnerable right now." 
Among the activists still in custody are He Peirong, a Nanjing activist and 
 Chen supporter who drove the blind lawyer's getaway car out of his home 
province  of Shandong, and Guo Yushan, a Beijing scholar and rights advocate 
who aided  Chen in the capital. 
For a rural activist, Chen had gathered a wide following, a testament to 
what  supporters describe as his generous spirit and determination to fight 
injustice.  His exposure of forced abortions and sterilizations in his 
community so angered  officials, they persecuted him, sending him to jail for four 
years and then upon  his release confining him to his home, where he was 
isolated and occasionally  beaten. 
Civil rights lawyers, journalists, diplomats and even British actor 
Christian  Bale have tried to penetrate the heavy security that has surrounded Chen 
for the  last 20 months. Each time, hired guards drove them back, sometimes 
pelting  outsiders with rocks and chasing them with cars. 
For China's human rights defenders, Chen's dash to freedom was a bright 
spot  after nearly two years of mounting harassment. Ai, the documentary 
filmmaker,  said Chen's hardships have been unique but his aspirations for a more 
open  society with greater legal protections are shared by many. 
"We have jails inside ourselves that make us worry that we will be punished 
 if we speak our minds because this society doesn't respect the rule of law 
and  doesn't fully protect freedom of speech," she said. "Chen Guangcheng 
is a model,  and he has shown us that we can break away from those fears." 

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