Chen’s in America? And his family too, I hope?
Well, if he’s here studying law, I hope he can give those second-gen nouveau-riche princelings a run for their money.
Chen, a native of the small village of Dongshigu, first became a thorn in the side of local authorities when he journeyed to Beijing in 1994 to petition the central government to lift taxes that had been wrongly levied on his family, which under law was exempt from taxation because of Chen’s disability.
After his petition was granted, Chen went about helping other families with disabled members who had also been taxed.
Several years later, buoyed by the success of his tax appeal, Chen launched a campaign to stop a paper mill from dumping toxic chemicals in a stream near his village.
Then, in 2005, after Chen exposed at least 7,000 forced abortions and sterilizations in the Shandong city of Linyi, the local authorities responsible for this brutal edict to force compliance with China’s one-child policy had seen enough.
Chen was seized later that year on a street in Beijing and transported back to Shandong, where, in 2006, he was convicted and jailed for “organizing a crowd to disrupt traffic” and “damaging public property.”
After being escorted to a Beijing hospital by US ambassador Gary Locke himself, however, Chen – who, according to Locke, had earlier enthusiastically agreed to the deal – changed his mind and asked that he and his family be flown to the US.
Chen attributed his change of heart to threats he said had been made against his family by local officials in Shandong. Chen claims that officials there warned they would beat his wife, Yuan Weijing, if he did not leave the US embassy and that his elder brother, Chen Guangfu, who helped him escape, has already been tortured.
In another frightening development, Chen Guangfu’s 33-year-old son, Chen Kegui, has been charged with “intentional homicide” for an alleged knife attack on officials who entered his home following his uncle’s escape.
Understandably, Chen got cold feet, and diplomats were forced to go back to the drawing board to salvage some sort of face-saving exit for all parties.
After more than two weeks of behind-the-scenes talks, Chen, his wife and two children flew out of Beijing for New York and a new life on Saturday.
Ultimately, the question remains: What happened to those who helped Chen escape?