Blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng is attracting more attention from a small group of observers. A few opinion leaders at home and abroad are pushing for more people to visit him. On the Internet, various possible scenarios concerning such visits have been circulated.
Like similar spurts of action surrounding sensitive issues, speculation arises when clarification from relevant authorities is missing. As concerns accumulate, the local government of Linyi should release more information concerning Chen's situation. Blocking information and hoping the inquiries go away will only lead to worse consequences.
According to media reports, Chen, a local activist for people who are treated unfairly under the family-planning policy, has been under house arrest in Linyi, Shandong Province since September last year. It is reported that both individuals and media were prevented from visiting him by local authorities. Whether this is true and whether such measures are legal, there needs to more reliable information released by local governments.
The city of Linyi is now shrouded in controversy. The claim that the treatment of Chen Guangchen has violated strict legal procedure and human rights standards may not be simply invented.
The family-planning policy has been carried out in many instances with poor judicial awareness. Strong enforcement measures would meet with resistance in some occasions.
The work by Chen to defend people's rights has to be put in context since the family-planning policy is indispensable for the country's overall economic growth.
The conflict in Linyi has more to do with local governance level than nationwide political worries. Judging a specific rural area by the highest international human rights standards may be easy, but it hardly reflects reality.
A swarm of Western media outlets and human rights organizations are putting huge pressure on the local government which lacks experience in dealing with such matters. Their overreaction should not be seen as a careful plan. Now the incident is attracting more attention and becomes more difficult to resolve.
What is important now perhaps is to depoliticize the issue. Liberated from the scorching scrutiny of media and human rights organizations, local governments might be given more room to settle matters.