What China's dissidents are saying about Chen

By Gillian Wong

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, May 3 2012 1:27 p.m. MDT

In this undated photo released by supporters of Chen Guangcheng, blind activist Chen Guangcheng, center, is seen in a village in China.

Supporters of Chen Guangcheng, File, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

BEIJING — On Thursday, legal activist Chen Guangcheng told the United States that he wants to leave China, deepening a diplomatic dispute. His case has drawn comments from other prominent Chinese activists and dissidents — both to Chen directly and in other forums.

The sampling provided here offers a window into the voices of Chinese activism:

TENG BIAO, human rights lawyer and Chen's friend, in a phone call to the activist urging him to leave:

"You know that if you don't leave this time, perhaps in the short term they won't dare to do anything, but the revenge will be very terrible. It is not as simple as four years' imprisonment or house arrest for 2 1/2 years. Their torture will be very frightening, very unbearable. ... The government hates you. ... We understand very well that you don't want to leave. You would like to stay and try to do something. But you have to understand that you will not be able to do anything if you stayed. ... You've already done so many things and made so many sacrifices for China's human rights and freedom. We all don't want to see you make even more sacrifices."

LI JINSONG, Chen's lawyer, paints a more optimistic picture of what he imagines the activist's life might be like if he stayed in China:

"The power of those gangster-like officials who once persecuted Chen Guangcheng, like the city party secretary and public security bureau director in Shandong, can by no means challenge the power of the central government or continue to hurt Chen Guangcheng. So I think his personal safety has absolute protection. And his freedom, within his regular life, is guaranteed too. I mean, for the family to stay together, freely work and freely live their life, there should be no problem. But for him to accept media interviews and freely defend human rights and receive petitioners, I don't think he really has total freedom to do those things."

AI WEIWEI, dissident artist:

"I think the U.S. side has made efforts on this issue but they probably don't wish to see this issue stretch on or become more complicated. ... Of course for him personally, by running to the U.S. Embassy he is looking for some kind of protection. But his is not an isolated incident; it is tied into China-U.S. relations. And regardless of what happens, both sides will pursue their own interests. If the family's security can be ensured and they can live safely, I believe Chen Guangcheng would still be willing to live in China. But if he doesn't trust any of this — and he has enough reason not to trust them, because a lot of people's situations are not good — then of course we can only see how things develop."

LIU SHASHA, an activist who tried several times to visit Chen in the past year while he was still under house arrest, says he should stay to keep fighting:

"We worked so hard and suffered so many beatings in order for Guangcheng to be able to come out and work together with us. We hoped that Guangcheng could freely walk in his hometown, in his motherland. Not for him to be forced into exile, to leave the prison of his home for the spiritual prison of being barred from his homeland. A free Guangcheng must first be free in his own country!"

HU JIA, fellow activist and a close friend, said earlier this week before Chen left the embassy that if Chen left the country the injustice he suffered would go unpunished:

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