China Slams Exiled Activist's Calls for Reform
December 05, 2012
China's state-controlled press is responding angrily to activist Chen Guangcheng, who this week urged China's new leaders to protect human rights and follow Burma's path to political reform.
A Wednesday editorial in the Communist Party's Global Times dismissed the blind dissident lawyer's videotaped statement as a "typical preachy tirade" that was "barely noticed" by the Chinese people.
Chen's 10-minute statement, which was posted Sunday to YouTube by the U.S. rights group ChinaAid, urged incoming President Xi Jinping to defend human rights and enact political reform or risk a "violent transition."
The self-taught lawyer, who lives in exile with his family in New York, said that if Burma's President Thein Sein was able to release people like Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, then Xi should be able to release China's prisoners of conscience.
But the Global Times said Burma is not a good model for China, and insisted that Beijing is enacting its own type of political reform. It also praised those who promote democratization "within a legal framework," an apparent critique of Chen's high-profile activism against forced abortions and other abuses.
Chen had been under 19 months of house arrest when made a daring escape to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing in April, setting off a diplomatic dispute between Beijing and Washington. He was eventually allowed to go to the U.S. to study with his wife and children.
The Global Times, whose opinions generally reflect official sentiment, said Chen's influence has been diminished since he left his homeland. It said this was in keeping with other activists whose "halo dwindled" after they left their homeland.
The paper also took aim at Chen's credibility and questioned his source of income in the United States. It said some overseas Chinese activists are "not necessarily as independent as they appear to be," and said their departure from China means that they may forget what the country is like.
The activist's video appeal followed the sentencing of Chen's nephew, Chen Kegui, to three years in prison for assault, in what was seen as retaliation by local officials angered by his uncle's daring escape from house arrest.
Human Rights Watch called the trial of Chen Kegui "hasty and unfair," saying it "bore the same disturbing hallmarks as Chen Guangcheng's persecution - incommunicado detention, denial of lawyers of his choice, and a politicized and closed trial.”
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