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A Reader’s Comment on the Chen Guangcheng Case

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

By Linda   May 1st, 2012

imageIt seems that it never lacks riveting dramas on the stage of China these years. People including me are actually entranced by a new episode: the prominent blind human right activist Chen Guangcheng has escaped from 19- month long house arrest this past Sunday, safely arrived at Beijing on Monday. Somehow the US embassy in BJ was drawn into the drama again, just as in the case of Wang Li-jun two months ago, because the Embassy is said to provide Chen a temporary shelter, although both governments still remain silent about the whereabouts of Mr. Chen.

In a video made pleading with Premier Wen Jia-bao for an investigation of his case after his escape, Chen pointed out that the notorious political and legislative committee at the local level was behind the persecuting of him and his families are those work for.  The truth revealed by Chen supposedly packs a punch to Mr. Zhou Yong-kang, the senior leader heading the Central Political and Legislative committee, who is now in deep water because of Bo, Xi-lai’s downfall. Chen’s escape certainly torpedoes the reputation of the Chinese government who admits to spending billions on an internal security apparatus. A handful of civil activists and sympathizers orchestrated the triumphant escape, successfully outwitting 100 strong guards watching over his village house around the clock. Acting in concert with Chen, they pulled off a task which would supposedly call in well-trained Pros if put in other countries.

This event comes at a sensitive moment in many ways. Both governments are in the heat of the concession of power. The constitutionality of Obama’s controversial health care plan is under the review at the Supreme Court. The plan incorporates a federal birth control mandate requiring employers to provide for free contraceptive coverage. Many people missed the point in believing that Mr. Chen tried to fiddle with the government’s family planning policy, which ostensibly is something urgently needed for one of most populous countries in the world.  Taken a closer look, his criticism is directed against the cruel and inhuman approach adopted by government officials at the local level in implementing the policy.  On the record of the charges against Mr. Chen, his opposition to late-term abortions and compulsory sterilization directly contributed to his arrest, torture, and house arrest. It is widely known that China scores badly on a wide array of issues, arranging from corruption, violation of religious freedom, freedom to speech and press, to a lack of transparency and accountability of judiciary system. Mr. Chen’s arrest and escape just put a human face to those issues discrediting the Chinese government’s governance.

Some commentators also are worried that it would open the floodgates for more dissidents seeking refuge at the US Embassy if American government grants asylum to Mr. Chen. When China is gradually shifted into a police state, the U.S. Embassy somehow begins to serve the same function as the concession areas in the time period prior to 1949, when renown anti-establishment activists like Liang, Qichao, Kang, You-wei, and Li, Da-zhao all sought protection at foreign embassies. Another prominent Chinese activist Hu Jia said, the American Embassy now is the only safe place on Chinese soil. However, Mr. Chen’s intention is miscalculated. Actually a reliable source indicates that Chen does not want to seek asylum at all. He wants to stay in China as a citizen whose fundamental rights are to be honored and properly safeguarded. This is still a faraway dream for ordinary Chinese citizens. Then why did he pull off this feat if he does not aim for seeking refuge for himself from a world power? Mr. Chen may aim higher. Perhaps he does not feel content with merely having his own or his family’s situation changed. With the world watching the response of the US government to the Chen’s escape, the U.S. government is placed in a delicately difficult situation. The President may have to put the full weight of one’s office in delivering promise that the U.S. is the champion and guardian of the cause of freedom, justice, and democracy, thus pushing the Chinese government to do something right by whatever means available.

I had a talk on the phone with Dad last night. He and Mom just came back from a 10-day tour in Fujian, Macao, and Hong Kong. Due to the news censorship in China and their lack of access to internet, they have no clue as to the firestorm centering round Mr. Chen’s escape. He just mentioned that during the trip, two guides from Macao and Hong Kong briefly brought up the Bo’s case knowing that they came from Chongqing where Bo Xi-lai used to be the Party Chief. For the old generation, they might think that Mr. Chen is on a make-believe mission that the majority of the populace would not understand nor dare to side with him even if they do. “We ordinary folks cannot do anything. Mei ban fa. Do we have a say in things like this?” He certainly enjoys his life after retirement. After the trip, he and Mom went to the Southern Mountain Park* staying for a couple of nights with some of his college classmates for a celebration in a tourist program called “the Joy of Rural House.” Obviously what people lacks in their right to have a say on major or minor political matters in China they will try to make up in relish for food or other pleasure- seeking activities. They know they always get the short end of the stick, but many of them seem to settle for what they at liberty to receive from the government, and they are grateful of the crumbs fallen off the festival tables. It usually takes a crisis to spur a real change for many countries or political parties. We will see what the Chinese government would react to the current political crisis, long after missing the opportunity to depart from the old-liners’ course in 1989.
(Picture: A Poster of The Shawshank Redemption modified by Chinese Internet current affairs cartoonist Crazy Pepper)

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