Saturday, April 19, 2014
Chen no longer real activist but unwitting tool
Global Times | May 03, 2012 21:05
By Yu Jincui
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Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese legal activist, has been in the headlines of many Western newspapers recently.

Chen entered the US embassy in Beijing in late April and left after staying there for six days. Chen's visit to the US embassy could be seen as a response to the political care he received from the US. In the past, some US politicians and organizations had called for support for Chen.

There are many technical obstacles if Chen wants to leave China for the US now, and if the US embassy protects a Chinese citizen  it is a kind of provocation to China's sovereignty.

Chen's US embassy stay came a few days before the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue, and the development of the issue shows the US isn't willing to support him at the cost of normal communications between the two countries.

Chen was a popular figure in protecting visually-impaired people and farmer's rights at the beginning.

But in the process, he gradually resorted to extreme and violent ways.

According to the local government, he led some people to smash a police car in 2006 and was then sentenced to jail for four years for damaging public property and obstructing traffic. His behavior had gone too far away from guarding public rights.

It was initially merely a criminal case. However, since it has been used and exaggerated by some Western and domestic forces, this case has gradually been politicized.

Reports of Western media on Chen are simple and monotonous, mostly centering on how he was beaten, imprisoned, and silenced. Chen's case has been hyped as a dark reflection of China.

Admittedly, today's China has some loopholes in grass-roots governance.

There are systems and laws in China, but the sense of the law at the grass-roots level is still weak.

Some local governments and officials act based on local policies and practices rather than laws.

Chen fights against the local government over forceful abortion and sterilization. As a densely populated province, Shandong has higher pressures on implementing the one-child policy.

In Chen's hometown, Linyi, a city in the southeast of Shandong, there are disputes between the villagers and local governments in implementing the one-child policy, and local officials may adopt some forceful ways to stop those breaching the policy.

However, this is just a local case, an interlude for China in realizing the rule of law. If Chen had stuck to proper ways to help people safeguarding rights, this would have contributed to improving grass-roots governance and achieving social development.

Unfortunately, when trying to attract the international spotlight by being violently against the government, Chen became a political pawn and was used as a tool to work against China's political system by some Western forces.

The local government should also take some responsibility in the politicization and complication of Chen's case.

After Chen was released from jail, many people rushed to meet him, including some Chinese activists, public opinion leaders, lawyers, and Western journalists.

The local government and its villagers were quite nervous with the crowds. They lacked experience in handling such a situation and performed poorly in publicizing adequate information to clear rumors.

Chen now has turned from an activist into a political tool of some forces with ulterior motives. China's grass-roots conflicts, which come from imperfect governance, have been magnified immensely.

In the process, no matter it's within his intention or not, Chen lost his own ability to speak.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Yu Jincui based on an interview with Wu Danhong, an associate professor at China University of Political Science and Law.


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