China promises Chen to investigate abuse
Beijing: Blind activist Chen Guangcheng on Tuesday claimed that the Chinese government has quietly promised him that it would probe abuses he and his family suffered at the hands of local authorities.
If true, it means the case has succeeded in getting high officials to address the concerns of Chen Guangcheng, who fled house arrest in his home town last month for the US embassy and set off a diplomatic tussle.
According to the activist, an official from a central government bureau that handles citizens complaints has visited him in his Beijing hospital three times, including to take a statement last Thursday.
"After he took my statement, he said they would launch an investigation as long as there are facts, and that if there are facts about the illegal actions, then the issue definitely would be openly addressed," Chen told a news agency in an interview.
Chen said it remained to be seen how seriously Beijing would probe abuses by township and county officials, which date back to 2005 after Chen angered local authorities by documenting forced late-term abortions and sterilisations in his rural community.
"Will the investigation be thorough? That's hard to say, so we'll have to keep monitoring," Chen said.
Chen served four years in prison on what supporters said were fabricated charges and was then kept under house arrest with his wife, daughter and mother. Chen has described how besides assaulting him, officials would also beat up his wife and mother, at one point chasing his wife on the road, pulling her from a vehicle and then hitting her. His daughter was also subject to searches and harassment.
The mistreatment has often seemed extreme and personal, exposing the impunity local officials believe they have and Beijing's unwillingness or inability to do anything about it.
For all its power, the authoritarian government relies on local officials to enforce policies so Beijing must be careful not to alienate them. However, with Chen's case now an international issue, Beijing is either feeling compelled to act or it is seizing the opportunity to get rid of local officials it dislikes.