An erratic flight
Washington Post reports:
Chen Guangcheng, the blind lawyer known for his outspoken opposition to China’s forced abortion and sterilization policies, has escaped from house arrest and has reportedly sought U.S. diplomatic protection, potentially casting the United States in an awkward position on the eve of high-level talks between the nations.
The exact whereabouts of Chen, who posted a dramatic YouTube video calling on Premier Wen Jiabao to investigate his case and protect his family from abusive police officials, were unclear Friday night.
“Premier Wen, with great difficulty, I have escaped,” a grim-looking Chen, wearing dark glasses, announced in the video message. He detailed beatings that had been inflicted on him and his wife, injuring his wife’s back, ribs, elbow and eye, while being denied medical care.
Hu Jia, another prominent activist and friend of the Chen family, said Chen left his village in Shandong province Sunday night and arrived in Beijing on Monday. Hu said Chen was “in the U.S. Embassy or under the shelter of diplomats, at least.”
If the U.S. government is aiding or sheltering Chen, it would be the first time the embassy in Beijing had played such a role since the crackdown on Tiananmen Square demonstrators in 1989, when astrophysicist and democracy advocate Fang Lizhi was given refuge at the embassy. He stayed there for about a year before China granted him permission to leave for medical reasons and settle in the United States. Fang, who later taught at the University of Arizona, died this month.
Clinton has repeatedly called for Chen’s release, yet his escape comes at a delicate time when Washington is trying to enlist Beijing’s help on a range of global issues, from containing the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea to helping broker a cease-fire in Syria.
The Obama administration put up a wall of silence in the hours after Chen’s escape became public Friday morning. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, pressed repeatedly by reporters at the department’s daily news briefing, said only: “I don’t have anything for you on that subject.”
Chen ran afoul of authorities after he filed a class-action lawsuit in 2005 accusing officials of enforcing the one-child population law by forcing thousands of women to undergo late-term abortions and compulsory sterilization. He has been in and out of prison in recent years.
Below the surface of China’s tiger economy are social disruptions that could take a long time to stabilize. In addition, or perhaps as a result of this, the ruling communist party is as riven with factional politics and regionalism as India, with intermittent explosive political situations. As long as growth is on track, China’s problems can be solved by rising incomes. But when growth falters, as it is doing now, the social problems can begin to spin out of control.
India has similar problems but deals with them differently. Neither country has been particularly successful in dealing with social disruptions caused by income gaps till now. One wonders which system is more stable in the middle term: China or India? Which country will be better off socially and economically in 2050?
May 1, 2012
Washington Post reports:
Since blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng was being held under illegal house arrest, his only offense in escaping may have been to embarrass his captors — vengeful local officials bent on punishing him for exposing forced abortions.
Even police in Beijing seem to tacitly acknowledge this, with a Chen supporter saying Tuesday that officers have noted in recent days that the activist broke no laws in his surprising escape through the security cordon surrounding his farmhouse in eastern China.
Activists say Chen was delivered into the protection of U.S. diplomats in Beijing late last week, and that American and Chinese officials are deliberating his fate in hopes of resolving the situation before the arrival of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday for high-level talks.
Bob Fu of the Texas-based group ChinaAid, citing a source close to both governments, said they are discussing a deal to secure American asylum for Chen. However, Chen’s supporters have said he does not want to leave the country. The U.S. State Department has repeatedly refused to comment on the case.
May 3, 2012
The story of Chen Guangcheng just got a bit more muddy. A press release from the US department of state in the name of Hillary Clinton reads:
I am pleased that we were able to facilitate Chen Guangcheng’s stay and departure from the U.S. Embassy in a way that reflected his choices and our values. I was glad to have the chance to speak with him today and to congratulate him on being reunited with his wife and children.
Mr. Chen has a number of understandings with the Chinese government about his future, including the opportunity to pursue higher education in a safe environment. Making these commitments a reality is the next crucial task. The United States Government and the American people are committed to remaining engaged with Mr. Chen and his family in the days, weeks, and years ahead.
This is contradicted by several stories in the press, for example, this report from the Guardian:
Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng has pleaded for help to let him leave the country with his family, with a US-brokered deal for his future unravelling within hours of him leaving the Beijing embassy where he had taken shelter.
Chen said he never asked to leave China in his six days at the mission, which followed his incredible escape from a brutal 19-month regime of illegal house arrest. But he said he only left the embassy because US officials told him Chinese authorities would send his wife and children back to their home province – where they have been watched around the clock and harassed by a team of 100 guards – if he remained inside. He added that, at one point, an American official told him his wife would have been beaten to death – a claim denied by the US.
“I think we’d like to rest in a place outside of China,” Chen told Associated Press, in an interview from a hospital room in the capital. “Help my family and me leave safely.”
May 3, 2012
The bitter medicine cured the problem it was meant to. Xinhya reports a bland start to the China-US dialogue:
The fourth China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue is under way in Beijing. Chinese President Hu Jintao has addressed the opening of the talks, making a key note speech, in which he said both countries need to strengthen cooperation based on mutual trust and mutual respect.
Representatives at the high level talks are hoping to find common ground, amid increasing disputes between China and US.
In his opening speech, President Hu Jintao stressed that while China and US might not agree on all issues, they must respect each other’s core interests.
President Hu said, “Co-operation between China and the US will bring opportunities to both countries and to the world. Confrontation will only bring harm. No matter how the world has changed, or how much both countries have changed domestically, both of us should continue our cooperative partnership, and strive to develop our international relationship, in order to put Chinese and American people at ease and maintain world peace.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed the sentiment of President Hu’s speech.
She referred to the increasing co-dependance between China and the US, with the US having a strong interest in China’s continued economic growth.