Activist gets Chinese reassurances
Blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng has chosen to remain in China after authorities pledged to guarantee his safety.
The human rights lawyer sheltered at the US embassy in Beijing for nearly a week before leaving of his own volition to be treated at a local hospital under high security.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assured Chen’s future would be a lot brighter than it has been for the last six years as she touched down in the Chinese capital for bilateral talks.
“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,” she said.
She also denied Chinese claims that the people responsible for taking him into the Embassy should be punished, saying the escape and refuge had been handled “in a way reflecting his choices and American values”.
Chen’s escape from extralegal house arrest was documented by the world’s media as he evaded a hundred guards and passed through eight checkpoints to reach Beijing. There, he was sheltered by the US Embassy where he remained during high-level talks between the two countries. Chen’s wife, Yuan Weijing, and their two children have since visited him at Chaoyang hospital, where he is being treated.
Human rights campaigners are cautiously optimistic about Chen’s future in China, saying that they doubt the will of the authorities to keep their promises.
Wang Songlian, of the Chinese Human Rights Defenders network, said: “If he’s going to stay in China, reassurances are not very reassuring because the Chinese government has a record of not honouring its words regarding human rights. The most worrying part is that his extended family is in Shandong and authorities could retaliate by detaining or torturing them”.
Meanwhile, critics have used the opportunity to criticise the US for its own illegal detention centre at Guantánamo Bay, where activists from all over the world have been held indefinitely on suspected terror charges.
The Close Guantánamo coalition has called on the President “to honour the principled and pragmatic commitment he made on taking office, and we insist that Congress stop making Guantánamo – and the fate of the men imprisoned there – into a cynical game of political manoeuvering”.
The editorial unit