Web in a flurry as Chen steps out
Despite a blitz by censors to limit online discussion about blind activist Chen Guangcheng - who left the safety of the US embassy yesterday afternoon and plans to stay on the mainland - internet users who have followed his dramatic escape from police custody have commented however possible.
Many comments expressed admiration for Chen and his decision to remain on the mainland, where he plans to attend university, while others were contemptuous of the government placing blame on the US and demanded an apology.
They also speculated that Chen, who left the embassy and met with his family at a hospital in the company of US ambassador Gary Locke suggested the two countries had reached some sort of accord.
Qiu Xuyu, a lawyer and a verified Sina microblog user, wrote: 'I strongly support the US embassy 'interfering' in China's internal affairs this time, and I hope this kind of interference is done more often.
'Every inch of China should be free, and it is humiliating to all Chinese people that Chen had to escape to the US embassy [for shelter].'
The comments came after Xinhua reported that Chen, a native of Yinan county in Shandong province, who entered the US embassy in Beijing last week, had left of his own volition. Chen sought refuge at the embassy after escaping from house arrest. Sina's microblog site was among those heavily targeted by censors, who were quick to pull down most mentions of the story. Some mild criticism and neutral discussions were left untouched, but many commenters were careful not to mention the activist by name.
A Sina search for 'Chen' returned no results 'based on relevant laws and regulations'.
Many tech-savvy internet users also took to overseas social media sites such as Twitter to discuss Chen. Lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said on Twitter that it was ridiculous for the Chinese government to lash out at the US for protecting Chen.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs drew the ire of some commenters when it said through Xinhua that China demanded the US apologise over the incident.
'It must be pointed out that the United States embassy took Chinese citizen Chen Guangcheng into the embassy in an irregular manner,' the statement said.
Some web surfers joked that the safest place on the mainland was the US embassy, and they suggested it would make a good petition office for Chinese who feel they have been wronged by government officials.
Another microblogger said: 'I want to express my sincere gratitude to the US.' Lawyer Yang Xuelin wrote on Sina weibo: 'Is it the much-vaunted 'rule of law' when a blind person, as a free citizen, is put under house arrest ... and made to suffer physical abuse?'
Although many internet users supported Chen's decision to stay, saying he would be more politically influential, some, such as rights activist Wang Lihong, said they could not help but worry about him and his family. 'Chen did everything he could for this country, and his fate is connected to every one of us,' Wang said on Twitter.