Activists: Chen case does not mean controls easing
A woman protester who claims she wants to see blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng, recounts her grievances as a Chinese police officer questions her outside the hospital where Chen is recuperating in Beijing, Saturday, May 5, 2012. While it appears China will likely make a rare concession and allow activist Chen Guangcheng to leave China with his family, dissidents say the deal is not a sign of a broader easing of controls. Authorities might even tighten the screws on other prominent critics to prevent them from seeking similar offers ahead of a leadership handover during which stability is paramount. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
BEIJING (AP) — Even if China makes a rare concession and allows legal activist Chen Guangcheng to leave the country with his family, other dissidents say they don't expect a broader easing of controls. Authorities might even tighten the screws on prominent critics to prevent them from taking encouragement from Chen's case to challenge the leadership.
The blind activist's escape from house arrest and flight to safety in the U.S. Embassy has provided a much-needed morale boost for a dissident community that over the last year has been debilitated by a massive government security crackdown aimed at preventing an Arab-style democratic uprising. Dozens of activists, rights lawyers, intellectuals and others have been detained, questioned and in some cases, even tortured.
Chen, a symbol in China's civil rights movement, may be able to leave to study in the United States under still-evolving arrangements announced Friday by Washington and Beijing to end a weeklong diplomatic standoff over his case.
An image featuring blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng is shown by a protester during a rally in front of the Chinese central government's liaison in Hong Kong Friday, May 4, 2012. Chen at the center of a diplomatic standoff between the United States and China said Friday his situation is "dangerous," and that American officials have been blocked from seeing him for two days and friends who have tried to visit have been beaten up. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
On Saturday, Chen was still in a hospital where he was taken to receive medical care, joined by his wife and two children. U.S. Embassy officials met with his wife, although Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Beijing this past week for annual talks, left Beijing without visiting him.
The Foreign Ministry said Friday that Chen could submit an application to go abroad. His wife told Hong Kong broadcaster TVB on Saturday that applications for travel documents had not yet been started and no date has been set for them to leave.
The turn of events for Chen, while welcomed by most activists and dissidents, is seen as an individual victory that is not likely to pave the way for improvements in the government's attitude toward its critics.
"I think that after the Chen Guangcheng incident, the situation for us will just become worse and worse, because in today's society government power has no limits," said Liu Yi, an artist and Chen supporter who was assaulted Thursday by men he thinks were plainclothes police while he attempted to visit Chen in the hospital.