Members of the media gather inside a police cordon outside the Chaoyang Hospital in Beijing where Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng was staying on May 3. Chen appealed to US officials to help get him out of China. Photo: AFP
Blind activist Chen Guangcheng left Beijing for New York Saturday, reportedly to begin his law studies at New York University. The weeks-long diplomatic drama is finally settled. The process is worth pondering.
Chen was portrayed by Western media as a "hero" against the Chinese system. His arrival at New York was celebrated by supporters as a "victory," but the reality behind the issue is much more complicated.
Chen's disability has aroused intense interest in the Western media. There are many activists in China, including many aggressive ones. But none of them seemingly has attracted the same attention as Chen, over whom the parties involved have been stuck in a deadlock. An ordinary grass-roots spat was turned into an international issue. A few American officials, human rights advocates, Western media, and some domestic supporters as well, have set the tone for encouraging Chen's challenge from the beginning. Though they vow to seek a solution, their actions encourage confrontation.
The drama around Chen is a colorful bubble. Nothing is left when it bursts. If it is being cited to prove China's imperfect legal system, it is a redundant effort. If it is being used to prove the country's judiciary structure is worsening, it is a futile attempt. China has an incomplete but improving legal system. This is a fact that cannot be refuted by anyone.
The Chen drama appears to be buzzing, but it has barely impacted Chinese society. The majority of Chinese have a mature and stable judgment of this country. That is why dissidents, who often create a sensation in the Western media, fail to make a dent among the Chinese.
Chen won't have more propaganda value for the West when he sets foot in the US. There are already many former Chinese dissidents in exile willing to tell stories about a "bad China." Chen could join that club.
Chen's drama will not be repeated despite its seemingly attractive plot. There are many Chinese who deem themselves victims of suppression. Nationwide, unfair treatment cannot be prevented completely. They would be happy if the White House could "rescue" them, but the US embassy probably is not interested in acting as a petition office handling China's complex lawsuits.
The Americans may not get the point, but China's public intellectuals and elites who support Chen should be able to. Intellectuals and elites should help the public form a better understanding of China's complexity and work on defusing conflicts and confrontations instead of pushing things into a deadlock.
Chen arrives in US to study in New York University
Chinese blind activist Chen Guangcheng arrived in the US on Saturday and will begin his studies in New York University (NYU), while observers said Chen may face a tougher life than anticipated.
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Chen trump for US in human rights game
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Chen and embassy should not delude themselves
It was confirmed Wednesday that Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese legal activist, entered the US embassy in Beijing in late April and left of his own volition after staying there for six days. The issue received official notification one day before the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which shows both sides do not want the issue to affect their relationship.