Chen Guangcheng

Day of mixed emotions for Chen supporters

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 May, 2012, 12:00am


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Friends and supporters of blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng, while happy to hear he had finally left for the US, expressed concerns over the fate of his relatives left behind in his Shandong home town.

And although the incident's long-term effects on ties between the US and China remain to be seen, foreign policy experts on the mainland agreed it highlighted that China needed to address deep-rooted social discontent.

He Peirong , the blogger known online as Pearl who helped Chen escape from house arrest last month, said she was happy to hear the activist had been allowed to leave. 'I am glad that my wish to help Guangcheng to be free is coming true,' she said.

He was held by police for seven days after helping Chen escape. She said she 'still has a slight fear of reprisal'.

'Yes, I am a little worried, but the Beijing leadership has promised Guangcheng that a full investigation will be carried out in Shandong into local officials' illegal treatment of Chen and his family,' she said.

'That has enhanced my faith to trust our government as well as our country.'

Teng Biao, one of Chen's close friends, said he had been escorted away from the capital by national security agents.

'They told me that if Chen Guangcheng was still in Beijing I couldn't return to Beijing,' Teng said.

'I'm happy that Chen and his family will now be in a safer environment. As for Chen Kegui's situation, I'm worried about it... On other matters, it's not convenient for me to comment.'

Chen Kegui, the activist's nephew, has been charged with 'intentional homicide' after officials raided his home and he wielded a knife to defend himself. No one was killed.

Li Jingsong , defence lawyer for Chen at his trial in 2006, said he was happy to know that Chen and his family would be in a completely safe environment. But Chen's case had left him feeling ambivalent.

'It would have been better if he could have left after the officials in Shandong who mistreated him had been dealt with in accordance to the law,' he said.

Many of Chen's supporters welcomed Beijing's decision to allow Chen and his family to leave but some questioned Beijing's motives in sending him to the US 'so early and so suddenly'.

'The authorities should let Chen go because the 23rd anniversary of the June 4 [Tiananmen protest] is coming,' activist Mo Zhixu wrote on his micro-blog.

'The impact of the affair will dwindle as news reports will quickly peter out.'

Mainland-based Sino-US experts said Chen's case had indicated both Beijing and Washington had become more skilful and mature when dealing with sensitive issues.

'It was an acceptable solution among the three parties after a series of negotiations between Beijing and Washington,' Professor Shi Yinhong , a Sino-US expert at Renmin University, said. 'But I hope Chen's incident is just an isolated case, not a trend.'

Shi said mainland scholars were more suspicions about US intentions towards China's internal issues after Chen's case. It came at a sensitive time, just before the Sino-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

'I think our leadership should remain vigilant ... because the Chen case showed Washington doesn't watch us only on our human rights,' Shi said.

'It also wants to affect our politics at the highest level.'

A US State Department official said the incident had underscored the strength of ties between China and the US.

What could have become a thorny diplomatic problem was resolved relatively easily, allowing the annual negotiations to proceed without a hitch, he said.

Professor Jia Qingguo, from Peking University's school of international studies, said Chen's case had reminded Beijing that it must speed up reforms to tackle social unrest and bolster human rights.

'Our government should try to take pragmatic action to maintain true stability and lessen the chance of another case like Chen's emerging in the future,' he said.

Additional reporting by Priscilla Jiao