What the Chen Guangcheng Case Means to the Chinese

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Audio Transcript:

Werman: The World's Beijing correspondent, Mary Kay Magistad is in Boston this week. Mary Kay you were just listening to Bob Foo, what do you make of what he has to say?

Mary Kay Magistad: Well , one of the more interesting things I thought he had to say is where he said, "That while Chen Guangcheng doesn't want to leave China, it may be one of the only options open to him at this point." And that's because the climate, the political climate in China is such that the government has been very harsh with pro democracy activist and people who challenge it's right to rule and or the way it rules. So with Chen Guangcheng, he's not challenging the right to rule but he's saying "I want to be treated fairly as a citizen of China according to the constitution, and what you've been doing to me is outside of the law."

Werman: What do you think Chung actually wants, and why wouldn't he want the safety of exile in the United States?

Magistad: Because he wants the have a voice in his own country, and he wants to push for change within his own country. And exiles par-democracy dissidence, when they've gone outside of china, when they've gone to the united states, have tended to loose that voice in China. They don't have the same impact anymore.

Werman: Do you think there's any interest for China to cut a deal out of this whole situation?

Magistad: It depends what the deal would be. It's an interesting moment for China's leaders because we're still in the midst of another scandal. A senior leader named Bosch Eli, who had been party leader in Cho Chang, has been taken down from his positions and could face prosecution. His wife is accused by the government of murder of a British citizen who had been working with the family. And the way that the Chinese leaders talked about his case was, he was building up a colt of personality, he was very corrupt, he was moving toward the direction of the bad old days of the cultural revolution, we wanna move forward. Premier Wen Jiabao has talked about wanting political reform. Well here's a moment when Premier Wen Jiabao and other Chinese leaders could prove that they're serious about political reform. There's a blind lawyer who had been basically speaking out for the rights of women who were being forcibly aborted of their pregnancies, or sterilized.

Werman: We're talking Chun now?

Magistad: We're talking Chen Guangcheng. And he served four years in prison for trumped up charges basically for disturbing public order, when in fact what had happen was his supporters had come out because he was being detained by the police. He get's out, there are no more charges against him, but he is held under house arrest by a bunch of thugs, plain closed thugs who are being paid buy the local government. He's beaten up, his wife is beaten up, his mother is beaten up, his 6 year old daughter is not allowed to go to school, and he sends this video, he brings out this video after escaping asking Premier Wen Jiabao " Why am I being treated like this?, Did you not know I was being treated like this? If you didn't know, what are you going to do about it, and if you did know, what is this you were saying about political reform?

Werman: It leaves the central government in a very precarious position it would seem?

Magistad: Well, a lot of Chinese middle class internet users are paying attention to this. Which is not very easy at the moment because every time a comment is made on China's version of twitter called wavewar, which about 300,00,000 Chinese use, sensors delete it and the government requires that they delete these mentions. So people are starting to use various code words to try to get around it. As soon as the sensors figure out what those are, they delete those too. None the less a lot of people know what's going on, and they're looking with great interest about, you know, sort of how hypocritical are you being here. And, you know, we want to see some change, we want to see the government ruling according to the rule of law, and not just according to it's win.

Werman: In terms of tension in US Chinese bilateral relations, there's no doubt that things are kind of fraught right now. But in terms of significance, how would you kind of characterize this moment in US Chinese relations?

Magistad: Well certainly by no means the worst moment. It's a moment that needs to be navigated carefully. The Chinese side has signaled over the weekend, that they didn't think that this was going to be a big issue in the upcoming strategic and economic dialogue this week. The US side has kept very quiet about the case, there appears to be diplomacy going on behind the scenes, but the US is being careful not to use this as a way to embarrass China or to draw out a sort of a need for the Chinese leaders to make a sort of nationalistic play to the population. Oh the US is trying to criticize china and humiliate us like what they're doing. So I think both sides are looking at the bigger relationship and saying, "OK, we need to manage this but let's manage it quietly." And from the Chinese governments perspective there's good reason why they want to do this quietly because if you look at the details of the case, this is someone who has been beaten up and harassed in his own home, when there are no outstanding charges against him, and when he's not saying he want's to leave the country. So what's their problem with him? They kind of have to explain that if they're going to go public with it.

Werman: The World's Beijing corespondent Mary Kay Magistad speaking with us in our Boston studio's, Thanks very much.

Magistad: Thank You.