Source： NY Times
BEIJING — For months, Chen Guangcheng, one of China’s best-known dissidents, played a cat-and-mouse game with the phalanx of guards encircling his home. He dug a tunnel to try to escape, a friend says, but was found out. And he sneaked out a video that alerted his supporters to the smothering confinement he said he and his wife endured at the hands of the men who kept them virtual prisoners in their rural farmhouse.
Then last Sunday night, in an improbable escape, Mr. Chen, who is blind and reportedly weak from months of mistreatment, scaled the wall that had been built around his house, slipped past his security detail and made a desperate sprint to apparent safety in Beijing. The daring rush for freedom could not have been possible without a small network of activists who risked detention to help him and who, supporters with knowledge of the escape said, used coded messages to communicate and elude a surveillance apparatus that is one of the world’s most pervasive.
On Friday, the U.S. and China seemed to have forged the outlines of a tentative deal to end the diplomatic standoff that would let Chen travel to the U.S. with his family for a university fellowship. In the meantime, Chen’s fate still hangs in the balance.
So what exactly did he do to anger Chinese authorities so much in the first place? It all began with Chen’s foray into social activism nearly 16 years ago, when he began fighting against the Linyi government.
Born on Nov. 12, 1971, Chen grew up in a small village called Dongshigu, near Linyi City in eastern province of Shandong, approximately 400 miles from Beijing. He lost his sight after a severe fever when he was only a few months old.
“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” That’s what Archimedes, the Greek mathematician, said 2,300 years ago. And that’s what Chen Guangcheng, the blind rights lawyer who escaped house arrest in rural China in a dash to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, tried to do.
Chen’s lever was the nobility of his cause to protect Chinese women from forced abortions and sterilizations. That lever was made long by friends who used social media and a congressional hearing to highlight that cause.
Over the years, the extraordinary journey of Chen Guangcheng has been an inspiration, a protest, and, at times, a dark farce. Now, through his own sheer will, his life has come to symbolize, for China and the United States, an opportunity.
Sometime in the last few days, Chen slipped out of the stone farmhouse on the rural plains of Shandong province where he has been held under house arrest, with his family, off and on since 2005. If Chen’s captors had been readers of history, they might have predicted that he would not acclimate to limitations. Born blind, to a peasant family, he once ventured four hundred miles to Beijing, when he was in his early twenties, to file a tax complaint. Later, he was steered into the study of massage and acupuncture—one of the few professions available to the blind in China—but he leveraged that opportunity into taking law courses, and became a pioneering attorney on behalf of women subjected to forced abortions and sterilizations under the one-child policy. Lastly, his captors might have done well to remember that the last time he escaped, in the summer of 2005, he slipped out of his house after nine o’clock, because the darkness gave him an advantage. This time he escaped at night once again, and made his way to Beijing with the help of accomplices. He is now believed to be under the protection of U.S. diplomats. (They have not confirmed.)
Amid the scuffling and yelling, dozens more guards in olive-green, military-style overcoats – and two gray minivans – emerged from the other side of the checkpoint, all coming toward us.
“Why can I not visit this free man?” Bale asked repeatedly, only to receive punches from guards aiming for his small camera as they tried to drag him away from the rest of us.
As we retreated, I recognized the ringleader – the same burly man who had hurled rocks at the CNN team 10 months earlier to force us out of the same location.
MOST dissidents risk the fate of falling into obscurity and irrelevance after leaving China to live in exile.
It happened to Wei Jingsheng, one of the most prominent Chinese dissidents, who moved to the United States in 1997. His calls for democracy once inspired so many in and outside of China. Not anymore.
When my friend Chen Guangcheng, the blind lawyer activist, escaped house arrest a year ago and was finally allowed to leave for law studies in the United States, I worried that the curse of exile would befall him, too.
For a decade, Chen Guangcheng – a blind, self-taught lawyer from northeast China – has been an icon of Chinese resistance to the state. In 2005, he brought a groundbreaking lawsuit against his local government in Shandong, for their savage and illegal enforcement of the one-child policy. In retaliation, party officials kidnapped him and sentenced him to more than four years in prison. After his official release, he and his family (including his young daughter) were kept under house arrest and periodically brutalised by party officials and their thugs for another 19 months, during which time Chen became the beleaguered figurehead for the Chinese weiquan (civil rights) movement. In 2011, Chinese citizen-activists began expressing their support for Chen by printing T-shirts bearing his face or by posting pictures of themselves on the internet wearing sunglasses, in imitation of Chen’s own trademark spectacles. Chinese and foreign journalists and celebrities who tried to show their solidarity by visiting Chen’s village were hustled away, sometimes violently, by the party’s goons.
Yang Jianli is founder and president of Initiatives for China. He served a five-year prison term in China, from 2002 to 2007, for attempting to observe labor unrest.
I have a suggestion for Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao: Invite Chen Guangcheng to voice his concerns about your government and its treatment of him.
The blind Chinese civil rights attorney turned activist endured a year and a half of “soft detention” — constant surveillance under floodlights; a variety of threats; beatings, among them attacks on his wife — before escaping from his house in Dongshigu last weekend.
Bob Fu is founder and president of the China Aid Association, a Texas-based Christian human rights organization campaigning for Chen Guangcheng’s freedom.
The blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng climbed over the back wall of his home April 22 — and escaped nearly six years of torture, malnutrition and isolation. During his detention, Chen became a global star, his dark glasses emblematic of the embattled movement of human rights defenders in China. Chen is my hero and friend. He is under the protection of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. His status and safety present a pivotal test for freedom in China and for U.S. credibility as a defender of freedom.