【 The Wall Street Journal 】   Post Date: 4/29/2012
Embarrassed by Chen Scandal, Beijing Clamps Down on Activists and Media
Author: Josh Chin and Paul Mozur
Following Chen’s daring escape and subsequent taunting of the Chinese government, Beijing has tightened its grip on dissenting voices.  Three activists are being held by police and authorities are also blocking certain Chen-related terms on microblogging services.
BEIJING—The Chinese government clamped down on activists and online media in the wake of the dramatic escape of a blind human-rights advocate from home imprisonment, an embarrassing development for Beijing that could complicate U.S.-China relations if he is found to be in U.S. protective custody.
 
At least three activists were detained following the escape last week of Chen Guangcheng, a legal advocate who has fought forced abortions under China's one-child policy.
 
Meanwhile, popular Twitter-like microblogging service Sina Weibo blocked use of the words "blind man" and "UA898," a United Airlines flight from Beijing to Washington that Mr. Chen was rumored to have taken out of China. News of his escape hasn't appeared in major state-run media.
 
Chinese officials appeared to be digging for details of Mr. Chen's escape from his home in the village of Dongshigu in Shandong province on April 22, which friends said was a carefully planned effort in which Mr. Chen scaled a wall at night, confined himself to his bedroom for weeks to fool his guards into thinking his health was poor and moved among safe houses once in Beijing. Mr. Chen escaped alone, and his wife and daughter are believed to still be under home confinement, his friends say.
 
One activist and friend of Mr. Chen who was detained Saturday, AIDS and environmental advocate Hu Jia, said in an interview after his release late Sunday that authorities asked him when Mr. Chen met with U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke and whether he was present. The two questions "really surprised me," because they indicated that state security believed Mr. Chen was in U.S. custody, he said.
 
Mr. Hu added that investigators also asked specific questions about who helped Mr. Chen escape and when certain events took place.
 
Activists who have spoken with Mr. Chen say they believe he sought out U.S. protection, though his whereabouts were unclear on Sunday. Neither the White House nor the U.S. State Department would confirm that the U.S. was protecting Mr. Chen in Beijing.
The Chinese government didn't comment.
 
Mr. Locke has found himself the focal point of China human-rights issues in the past. In January, he told television interviewer Charlie Rose that "the human-rights climate has always ebbed and flowed in China, up and down, but we seem to be in a down period and it's getting worse," earning a rebuke from the Chinese government. Earlier this month, Mr. Locke released a statement calling for the release of Ni Yulan, a property activist sentenced to two years and eight months in prison by a Beijing court on April 10 for fraud and "creating a disturbance."
 
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Key Words: Chen Guangcheng, human rights China, political dissidents China, censorship
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