【 CBS News 】   Post Date: 5/8/2012
Beijing Promises to Investigate the Reported Abuse of Chen Guangcheng and Family
Author: AP Report
According to Chen he was visited in hospital by an official from the central government's State Bureau of Letters and Calls who promised to look in to the claims of abuse.  Chen is cautiously optimistic, however, as hundreds of thousands of abuse cases are reported to the Bureau each year.
(CBS/AP) BEIJING - Rights advocate Chen Guangcheng says the Chinese government has quietly promised him it will investigate abuses he and his family suffered at the hands of local authorities, in a rare instance of Beijing bowing to demands of an activist.
 
Beijing's apparent willingness to look into Chen's complaints is another sign that his gambit late last month — when the blind activist fled house arrest in his home town for the U.S. Embassy and set off a diplomatic tussle — has succeeded in getting high officials to address his concerns.
 
Chen said 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 The Associated Press 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 sterilizations in his rural community.
 
"Will the investigation be thorough? That's hard to say, so we'll have to keep monitoring," Chen said.
 
The State Bureau of Letters and Calls, as the complaints office is known, did not respond. A man who answered the phone at the duty office of the bureau refused to provide a contact number for officials who handle media requests.
 
But even a preliminary investigation shows the extraordinary amount of attention Chen's case is getting. An estimated hundreds of thousands of ordinary Chinese present petitions every year and only a fraction bring action.
 
"Now that they have made the promise, I will ask them to take it into action," Chen later told Reuters in an interview.
 
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.
 
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Key Words: Chen Guangcheng, human rights China, political dissidents China
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