Chen Guangcheng is a blind self-taught lawyer and famous human rights activist in China. He became internationally known for filing a law suit against a local government for its excessive enforcement of China’s one-child policy. Chen was placed under house-arrest in 2010 and was isolated from outside contact. In April 2012, he successfully escaped and entered the US embassy in Beijing. The following month he was exiled to United States following an agreement between Beijing and Washington and has been studying at New York University ever since.
Chen Guangcheng called an oblivious 'chess piece' in China-US relations
American politics seems to have taken advantage of blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng and he doesn’t even realise it, a top Chinese nationalist newspaper said on Thursday, calling him a mere “chess piece” in the great game of Sino-American diplomacy.
“[Chen’s] shallow understanding of the rules of Western politics and overestimation of his own value to the West are making his requirements more embarrassing to the US,” the Global Times editorial read.
The piece said Chen’s blindness was no more than a “perk” that entitled him to special favours and sympathy. Like many Chinese pro-democratic activists in the 1980s, Chen would be "mistakenly flattered" if he thought he was “treasure” for Washington, it said.
“Chen's understanding of both China and the US stems from his own experiences and feelings, which gives him an incomplete image of Sino-US relations,” the commentary said. “In fact, as one of the chess pieces used in the US' China policy, he, like the other [activists], is not given as much value as he expected. Chen was never going to be the 'exception'.”
As soon as the US realises co-operation with China is what prevails, Chen would be “consumed in a one-off manner” and abandoned as a “cumbersome asset”, the editorial added.
Chen released a statement this week accusing New York University, which hosted him for the past year, of ending his fellowship under political pressure from the Chinese government.
Chen, a self-taught lawyer who has campaigned for women's rights, land rights and the welfare of the poor, made world headlines last year after a dramatic escape from house arrest in his Shandong village to the US embassy in Beijing. He was then given a fellowship at NYU.
Since his arrival in the US, Chen has been frequently courted by the political right, and often speaks out against the Chinese government over human rights abuses.
The New York Post last week reported quoted Republican congressman Chris Smith as saying that NYU had tried to discourage Chen from speaking out against the Chinese government, and that Smith wanted to summon NYU to testify at congressional hearings.
“The US is not an enemy. Co-operation between China and the US will ensure that those radicals who want to see a confrontation between the two will not get their wish,” the Global Times said.
Correction: this story was updated at 10:00am June 21 to correct reference to the New York Post story in the 9th paragraph.