The Great Escape
"Premier Wen, with great difficulty, I have escaped."
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .—Chen Guangcheng
Keith B. Richburg brings us the lede of a career:
Chen Guangcheng, the blind, self-taught lawyer known for his outspoken opposition to China's forced abortion and sterilization policies, has escaped from house arrest and posted a dramatic YouTube video calling on Premier Wen Jiabao to investigate his case and protect his family.
How many times do you get to write something like that?
Supporters of the escaped blind dissident brought a video to Boxun, a Chinese-language alternative news website. The video, as the Washington Post article notes, is available at YouTube.
Hu Jia, another prominent activist and friend of the Chen family, said Chen arrived in Beijing on Monday and was currently in the U.S. Embassy under the protection of U.S. diplomats. The embassy would neither confirm nor deny that he was there ....
.... Regardless of whether the U.S. government is currently helping shelter Chen, his escape from his village in Shandong province on Sunday, and the video detailing abuse he and his wife suffered under house arrest, seemed likely to embarrass the Beijing government just days before Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner arrive for a long-scheduled talks on political and economic matters. Clinton has repeatedly called for Chen's release.
"Since this happened just one week before the Sino-U.S. strategic dialogue, the timing is good," Hu said. "Chen must be able to meet the U.S. human rights specialist and hopefully, he will meet Clinton."
"This is an election year in the U.S.," Hu said. "The Republicans are also watching what [President] Obama will do on this case."
The Obama administration put up a wall of silence in the hours after Chen's escape became public, refusing to confirm or deny the reports that he had sought refuge at the embassy in Beijing. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, pressed repeatedly by reporters at the department's daily news briefing Friday, said only: "I don't have anything for you on that subject."
The great dramas of international politics are usually boring enough to witness in real time. Certainly, the occasion of Chen Guangcheng's escape from house arrest will provide a little bit of Mystery Political Theatre to an otherwise dull string of meetings that nobody would remember unless Republicans decided to find an issue to pick.
Hu said Chen had to climb over a high wall, which was especially difficult because Chen is blind. "His story is the Chinese version of the Shawshank Redemption," Hu said.
Chinese dissidents and friends of Chen's in Beijing said his long-planned escape was not connected to the leadership's current preoccupation with the Bo Xilai scandal or the upcoming Clinton trip. They said Chen tried to escape last year by digging a tunnel with his family members but that guards quickly discovered it, foiling the plan when the tunnel was only a few yards long.
This time, they said, Chen first pretended to be sick for several weeks so that the guards would grow accustomed to not seeing him outside the house. He then escaped over the wall on a moonless night, when the entire village was dark.
His friend He, also called "Pearl," drove Chen to Beijing. But the dissident sources said He did not take Chen to the U.S. Embassy, since it would have been too dangerous for her to know all the details. Instead, the sources said, she returned to her home in Nanjing after dropping Chen in what they called a "safe location."
ChinaAid, a Christian human rights group based in Texas, reported that He was arrested Friday morning at her home in Nanjing. Witnesses said He was taken away by security officials; efforts by The Washington Post to reach her were unsuccessful.
ChinaAid also reported that Chen's older brother and a nephew were arrested following the escape.
The dissidents declined to identify anyone who met Chen in Beijing or say what his movements were after he arrived in the capital on Monday. They said the video was made sometime between Monday and Thursday.
We shall see, with good patience, what the next chapter brings.
Richburg, Keith B. "Chen Guangcheng, blind Chinese lawyer-activist, escapes house arrest". The Washington Post. April 27, 2012. WashingtonPost.com. April 27, 2012. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/...AlT_story.html