Chen Guangcheng

Net users voice concerns for activist's future, safety

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 May, 2012, 12:00am


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Mainland internet users voiced concerns yesterday about the safety of blind activist Chen Guangcheng - who left the US embassy on Wednesday and has changed his mind about wanting to stay in China - as most mainland newspapers ran little about the incident other than Xinhua's official line blaming the US and demanding an apology.

Only the Global Times, an English and Chinese tabloid under the People's Daily, published its own editorial warning the US to 'distance itself from activities that do not match its functions'.

'The West and its supporters in China always need a tool to work against China's current political system. Chen's case evolved into a more complex situation under the interference of Western media and even diplomatic factors,' the editorial said. Chen's case would not undermine social stability, nor would it hinder the normal development and progress of human rights, it said.

Pointing to the government's official acknowledgment on Wednesday - one day before the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue - that Chen had been sheltering at the US embassy, the editorial said this showed that 'both sides do not want the issue to affect their relationship'.

Other mainland newspapers carried two Xinhua articles about Chen leaving the embassy and China's demand for an apology from the US. They were not allowed to publish their own editorials, said a reporter at The Southern Metropolis News.

Sina's microblog site was still heavily targeted, with censors quick to pull down most discussions of Chen's case.

Some mild criticism and neutral chats were left untouched, but many were careful not to name the activist, as a Sina search for 'Chen' still returned no results. Many tech-savvy internet users took to overseas sites such as Twitter.

Chen told the South China Morning Post yesterday that he changed his mind about wanting to stay because he felt he and his family were in danger after leaving the embassy.

Most internet users understood and respected Chen's change of heart, as he faces a dire situation in which his family members would remain under close surveillance in their hometown in Shandong .

It is unknown how many of Chen's supporters went to the hospital yesterday. Some claimed on Twitter they were there, including rights activist Wang Lihong , who said security officers sent her home. Activist-artist Ai Weiwei said on Twitter that his tax consultant, Du Yanlin , was taken away by police. A few internet users posted photos of supporters wearing sunglasses in support of Chen.

Others discussed the pros and cons of Chen's staying or leaving. Mo Zhixu, an online commentator, said on Twitter that if Chen stayed, it would be like being in 'a big, dark room with a window for the Americans to monitor him'.