China web censors block hunt for activist

Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng escaped house arrest. [AFP: file photo]
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Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng escaped house arrest. [AFP: file photo]

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Chen Guangcheng releases video message

Created: 28/04/2012

Last Updated: Mon, 30 Apr 2012 19:18:00 +1000

Chinese censors have blocked internet searches of terms related to blind activist Chen Guangcheng, said by activists to be in hiding in the United States embassy. The US has not confirmed his whereabouts.

Blocked are terms ranging from his name to "Shawshank Redemption", the prison-break film being compared to his case.

Chen fled house arrest in eastern China a week ago with the help of supporters.

He slipped out under the noses of dozens of guards and - say dissident Hu Jia and other activists - into safety at the US embassy in Beijing.

Embarrassment


The case is lining up to be a major embarrassment for China's government and a potential thorn in ties with Washington, and censors have sought to squelch all discussion.

Searches for Chen's name and the Chinese terms for "Shawshank", "blind person", "embassy", and Chen's home village of Dongshigu were all blocked on Sina Weibo, China's leading microblogging service.

Also blocked was "UA898", a United Airlines direct flight from Beijing to Washington, apparently after web users speculated online about the possibility Chen would gain US asylum.

On Monday, dissident Hu told AFP that Chen was at the US embassy. The embassy and State Department have refused to confirm or deny that.

Chen had been under house arrest since 2010.

Mr Hu, who was detained over the weekend for questioning in the affair, says Mr Chen is being held in the US Embassy.

Chinese police have reportedly begun rounding up associates of the blind activist.

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