What does it mean for the Chinese communist regime?
Is it a big blow to regime and what kind of reaction we can expect from the regime?
Steve Yui-sang Tsang, Professor of Contemporary Chinese Studies & Director, China Policy Institute, School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham
We do not know exactly where Chen is at the moment, though reports suggests he is in the US Embassy.
His escape and the seeking of refuge at the US Embassy (if true) will not go down well with the Chinese leadership. It is deeply embarrassing for the Security apparatus, and someone there will face disciplinary or other punishments for this failing.
How the Chinese central government will act will depend on where Chen is and whether he is seeking asylum at the US Embassy. It is therefore a little too early to tell.
Chen’s escape is an inspiring event. He is a highly admirable and courageous person who has proved just as resourceful. It is hard for anyone interested in human rights not to find his escape inspirational. But this is not the end of the story for Chen, just the start of a new chapter. He may not seek to leave China. Even if he did it will require considerable negotiations before he will be allowed to leave. And there is still the ‘small’ issue of his family. Hopefully international interest in his daring escape will ensure the personal safety of him and his family.
Bernt Berger, Senior Researcher with China and Global Security Programme, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
Let me give you a range of answers.
The escape is a blow to the government in Beijing for two reasons:
a) there is a new dissident issue back in the international press.
b) Currently the Chinese Communist Party tries to polish its image with a range of initiatives, especially at the local and grassroots level. this involves raising the credibility of the party as pragmatic, problem-solving agency in the country that serves the needs of the people. Measures in this direction are
- active improvements of public services
- decentralisation insofar, that they allow local governments to become innovative in creating greater transparency and closeness to the citizens
- bringing in public liaison officers who are involved in the communities
- softening of NGO laws and registration procedures
This process goes hand in hand with stricter public security surveillance and the revival of old socialist public security structures at the grassroots since the Beijing Olympics.
Yet, cases as the one now show that on local level things are sometimes handled differently and that there is an endemic level of corruption that the party has been unable to deal with (even if it wanted to) and needs to some degree cover up.
Besides the move by Chen comes at a bad time. At the moment the government is busy with calming the waves of public attention after the Bo Xilai incident in Chongqing and prepare for a calm leadership transition. At the moment the levels of public satisfaction are very low. Although not many people in china might know who Chen, Internet platforms such as Weibo might spread the word. Since Che in a grassroots activist the case might gain more public attention and sympathies in China.
How will the government react?
I think they will try to maintain a low profile. There are rumours that the US Embassy has been informed about the action and ChinaAid has even assisted the escape. In such cases the government will revert to non.interference rhetorics, People who might be involved n the escape will be interrogated.
Kerry Brown, Head of the Asia Programme, Chatham House
On its own, Mr Chen’s `escape’ from his house arrest is probably not a major issue for the regime, but in the context of the conituning fall out from the fall of Politburo member Bo Xilai it adds to this sense of loss of control, uneasiness and a general chaotic atmosphere presiding in China. The central leadership are beset by external issues, but they also have major internal issues within their own ranks. The remarks Chen makes about the need for rule of law are very important, because they also resemble the remarks that Wen Jiabao has been making, in a different context. The issue now is whether, as a result of these latest events, we will just see more of the same from the central leadership, or whether these crises will make them consider fundamental changes. At the moment, it is impossible to say which.