After days of silence on whether blind Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng was under U.S. protection, American officials said Wednesday that he had left the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for medical treatment after having spent the past week there.
Chen's departure from the embassy compound took place after a rare deal was struck between Washington and Beijing that was reached to keep the self-schooled legal activist in China but free from persecution or harassment by Chinese authorities.
Under the deal unveiled Wednesday, Chinese authorities will allow Chen and his family to settle in Tianjing municipality, away from local authorities which he fled April 22 and which he has accused of mistreating him and his family.
Chen, one of China's best-known dissidents who had campaigned against forced abortions and sterilizations conducted as part of China's one-child policy, had been under illegal house arrest since his 2010 release from a four-year prison sentence for disrupting traffic and damaging property.
His incredible escape from house arrest in rural Shangdong Province has again put his situation in the spotlight of international attention.
Some political analysts said the latest decision to keep Chen in China despite past persecution could signal an improvement in dialogue between Washington and Beijing if it proves successful.
They also pointed out that Chen's case poses even tougher challenges to Chinese authorities than problems related with ousted Chongqing communist party chief Bo Xilai.
According to political pundits, the unusual visit of Bo's once trusted Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun to U.S. Consulate in Chengdu in February and Chen's taking refuge in U.S. Embassy in Beijing in April have shed light on China's political scandals and underscored the importance and urgency for China to carry out sweeping political reforms.
The following are excerpts from the local media coverage of the challenges faced by China in the wake of the blind activist Chen Guangcheng's dramatic escape:
United Daily News:
Chen's arrival at a Beijing hospital under the escort of U.S. ambassador and other senior officials could be seen as a compromise between the two countries.
His escape from illegal house escape has exposed China's legal flaws, injustice and human rights abuse.
Chen's cause is simple. He is known for revealing rights abuses under China's one-child policy and has advised farmers in land disputes and campaigned for improved treatment of the disabled.
Local authorities in Shangdong had spent tens of millions of Chinese yuan and hired hundreds of people to "lock down" the village he lived in over the past 19 months on the excuse of enforcing civil compliance and maintaining social stability.
Chen's ordeal exposed that "stability maintenance" has become a huge industry in China that requires huge budget allocation each year.
Political analysts said China's leaders should learn a lesson from Chen's epic escape that maintaining stability should not resort to illegal means and that law enforcement officers should abide by their country's constitution and laws.
Chinese authorities should also refrain from mistreating those who stand up for their legal or constitutionally protected rights as political dissidents; otherwise, they will have to pay enormous social costs, the analysts added. (May 3, 2012)
Chen's escape came at an unwelcome time for Chinese leaders who have already been embroiled in a lurid political scandal involving Bo Xilai.
Some local political scientists said the Bo case should remind Chinese leadership of the need to craft an effective mechanism to supervise exercise of power and government operations.
Noting that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has often talked about human rights protection and political reforms, they said the scandals exposed in Bo's downfall and Chen's escape indicate that China's reform and transformation should start with honoring their country's laws and Constitution. (May 3, 2012).
(By Sofia Wu)