It’s been another busy Spring 2012 Chinese news week as the final days of Hu and Wen have finally become the gift that keeps on giving. The latest story is the escape of the world’s most famous blind man, Chen Guangcheng, from extrajudicial home detention while under the watchful eyes of a Chinese ‘security’ detail that patrolled the fields and backroads of Chen’s neighborhood/village of Dongshigu keeping away through brute force, intimidation and physical beatings anyone who tried to visit him and his family, including Chen’s neighbors who tried to help him. Chen had served four years in prison for advocating against forced abortions and the forced sterilization of women, who’d had all three of his lawyers barred from his trial, and was assigned at the last minute a public defender who was nothing more than a prosecution plant. He was convicted of “damaging property and organising a mob to disturb traffic.”
Since his release from prison in 2010 Chen has been under a form of house arrest that has succeeded in reaching a level of official meanness that can only be expressed as vile. Chen’s house arrest has included not only the subjugation of a blind man who served four (4) years in prison for jaywalking, but also the systematic beating of innocent women – his wife, mother and any number of others who have humanely tried to help the family – by lowbrowed muscled men who may or may not be police, but who are doubtlessly in the official employ of the police and local officials in Linyi, Shandong province. And let’s not forget child abuse. The officious men of Linyi had refused to allow Chen’s daughter to attend school, though once the pressure became too great she was ushered back and forth to classes by brutes. That she also was forced to live under the conditions that were imposed upon the family can easily be classified as child abuse. These are only the brash highlights. The everyday details were much harsher, including various degrees of torture, food restrictions, electrical outages, sheet-metal covered and steel-barred windows, and spotlights that kept their small home lit up like Saturday night on the midway. Yes, this is the China that many have predicted will rule the world. Perhaps this is what it takes, a page torn from the savage’s playbook. Remember this when you get all warm and fuzzy about the Confucius Institute, another Party-sanctioned program that’s spreading through the world. This shameful affair points out yet again – and the second striking time in the last few weeks (the Bo Xilai affair) – the wholesale moral bankruptcy that permeates the entire Party system. This is the final work of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, whose ten-year reign is caving in on them and defining their ignominious end. And I haven’t even mentioned what they’ve managed to do to the ethnic minorities!
So, let’s see how the Obama folks will respond to China’s demands for Chen to be released from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, a story that is still, officially, speculation, since there has yet to be official acknowledgement that he is there. This is obviously not a Wang Lijun no-brainer where asylum was, perhaps, denied to a man who was part of a criminal conspiracy that included, among a host of other serious crimes, more than a few murders. In the case of Chen Guangcheng I’m sure there is a great desire to resolve this issue without it reaching the asylum level. But the only thing short of asylum would be verifiable guarantees that Chen and his family will be free of further inhuman harassment. If he is released back to China without meaningful guarantees Obama may as well kiss a second term goodbye. The wave of detentions in China over the last two days that has swept up many who are perceived as having helped Chen escape also must be addressed. Will China be able to go that far, the interference by a foreign rival in their domestic affairs? Will Team Obama have the stones to do what it must do? And all of this is happening on the eve of a China visit from Sec. of State Clinton who in an earlier visit to China played down the role of human rights in the U.S./China relationship, and Treasury Sec. Geithner, who I’m pretty sure doesn’t give a donut hole about the blind activist unless he can figure out a way to get his Wall St. buds to make a killing marketing a “Chen Sunglasses” campaign! Keep your eyes on the digital billboards that flash-up Times Square.
But I am waiting for Rectified.Name, who pitched the Bo Xilai affair, to do the same with the Chen affair to the Coen Bros, who have yet to do a Chinese film. They could weave this into a tale that would end in the twisted depths of hallowed bunkers beneath Zhongnanhai, where murder will take place, though, if they were going to keep it culturally correct, the retributive dead victims would probably all be women. Or maybe Zhang Yimou for failing to bring home the bacon with Nanjing Lite.
And China keeps wondering why they can’t win an Oscar. It’s not because they don’t have the material for a good script. It’s just that they won’t allow it to be written.
On Chen’s detention and the infusion of security cash into the local economy see ChinaGeeks’ In Chen Guangcheng Case, Follow the Money
For Chen Guangcheng as a “genuinely Mencius-like figure,” see The Useless Tree’s Stand With Chen Guangcheng
For a more detailed background on the Chen case see Tania Branigan’s piece in The Guardian: Chen Guangcheng: how China tried to lock down a blind man
For a further look at the political implications from both the U.S. and Chinese perspectives see Jane Perlez in the NYT: A New Pawn in China’s Two Tugs of War