Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Chen Stands His Ground

A bumper sticker provided by China Aid Association
My prediction yesterday that blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng would have to spend the rest of his life in exile with his family in the United States was completely wrong.

Chen stuck to his guns and the US government complied, but the latter is facing verbal wrath from the Chinese government.

Nevertheless, this afternoon Chen, accompanied by Ambassador Gary Locke, was taken to a Beijing hospital to seek medical treatment and there he was met by his wife and two children, a son and daughter.

After round-the-clock negotiations, China agreed to investigate Chen's claims of local authorities conducting "extralegal activities" of hiring thugs to watch over and beat up the "barefoot lawyer" and his wife, as well as preventing people from seeing him.

Chen has requested that he and his family be moved to another province and that he be allowed to attend university -- currently disabled people are not permitted to go to tertiary institutions. Obviously Chen is keen on furthering his law studies to continue to help the oppressed, which is probably making Beijing nervous.

And to ensure Chen's safety and well-being, American diplomats will be checking on him and his family periodically, as well as seeing the Chinese government follows through on its investigations.

This must have been humiliating for China to accept -- it could not force Chen to leave and the US will be able to monitor how he is treated. Talk about meddling in its internal affairs.

"The US should rethink their policies and practices and take practical actions to maintain the overall relations between China and the United States," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin in a statement issued by Xinhua. "China is a country under the rule of law, and legitimate rights and interests of citizens are protected by constitution and the law. Any citizen has an obligation to abide by the constitution and the law."

May we point out that Chen did not break any laws at all during his law activism; his jailing in 2006 was based on trumped up charges of damaging property and "organizing a mob to disrupt traffic", and not the real reason which was riling up local officials for exposing them forcing women to have abortions and sterilizations.

And what's this about China being "under the rule of law"? How can Liu say that when Chen was under house arrest after he finished doing jail time for crimes he did not commit?

The words are so ridiculous that no one, not even the Chinese themselves believe them anymore.

As a result the US refuses to apologize and have spun it by saying this was a "extraordinary case involving extraordinary circumstances".

In any event it's a very big victory for Chen and his fellow activists, who have gotten much exposure from this incident about the repressed environment they are working in and perhaps feel more free to do their work.

However we shall see if the Chinese government honours its commitments; and if it doesn't, it will surely find another way to choke off human rights activists' efforts which could lead to history repeating itself.

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