Clinton Presses China on Tibet, Chen Guangcheng

At the APEC summit in Honolulu, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly challenged China over self-immolations in Tibet and the house arrest of activist Chen Guangcheng and his family in Shandong province. From the AFP:

“When we see reports of lawyers, artists and others who are detained or ‘disappeared,’ the United States speaks up both publicly and privately,” Clinton said in a speech at the East-West Center think-tank shortly before a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi ….

As Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in Honolulu for the summit, Clinton said the US was “alarmed by recent incidents in Tibet of young people lighting themselves on fire in desperate acts of protest, as well as the continued house arrest of the Chinese lawyer Chen Guangcheng.”

“We continue to call on China to embrace a different path ….”

A senior US official said that Clinton also brought up the cases directly with Yang, but also sought cooperation on a range of issues including Iran amid new charges the Islamic regime is pursuing nuclear weapons.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders has published a new report on Chen’s case:

Based on interviews with a number of activists involved in the current campaign to free Chen, CHRD traces the genesis of this remarkable mobilization, which has spread beyond the small circle of human rights activists: citizens from all walks of life are undertaking trips to Dongshigu Village and participating in online activities in an effort to draw attention to Chen’s situation. Drawing on the meaning of Chen’s given name, they have coined the slogan for their movement from which this report takes its name: “Let there be light, let there be sincerity!” (要有光,要有诚).

In this report, CHRD outlines the horrendous conditions of the house arrest to which Chen and his family have been subjected following his release from Linyi Prison in September 2010. It details how the treatment of Chen violates Chinese law and the international human rights standards which the Chinese government has vowed to uphold. The report shows how both central and local governments have completely failed in their duty to protect the rights of Chen and his family, and how this has emboldened local officials by tacitly approving the abusive measures they have employed.

Attempted visits to Chen in the village of Dongshigu where he is being held continue to meet with resistance, often violent. The BBC’s Michael Bristow describes his own recent encounter:

The three men acted swiftly and efficiently – they had a job to do. They yanked open the car door, barked a few orders and then snatched equipment from out of our hands: cameras, mobile phones and recording devices. We were told to stay put while one man radioed for help ….

When the BBC visited, it was clear the men who stopped us were well drilled and organised – although it was impossible to say who had hired them.

There appeared to be a chain of command: one man took took some money from our car and put it into his pocket, before someone else told him to put it back.

The men wore plain clothes, showed no identification and refused to answer questions about who they were. They did not ask before taking what they wanted.

After searching our equipment they gave it back and then told us to leave the village.

An anonymous letter has been circulated to local residents, encouraging them to support Chen. But many villagers, wary of further trouble, have simply burned it. From Radio Free Asia:

“Nov. 12, 2011 is Chen Guangcheng’s birthday,” said the letter, which was sent to an unknown number of households in Chen’s home county of Yinan this week. “There will continue to be large numbers of people trying to get through to visit him.”

“We will not stand idly by and watch this happen,” it said. “Unite in support of Chen Guangcheng!” […]

Wang [Xuezhen, a Shandong-based rights activist] said that many villagers had burned the letter, titled “Telling the elders about their fellow countryman,” as soon as they saw what it said.

“Local government propaganda has been telling them that there are enemy forces at work, which is why so many people have been set to guard a single man.”

“They have previously said that Chen Guangcheng is a spy for the United States, so those people are very frightened, and they burned the letter as fast as they could.”

See also more recent news on Chen Guangcheng and the situation in Tibet, and warnings of proposed changes to Chinese law that would give detentions such as Chen’s “a thicker veneer of legality”.