China's security services have begun a wide-spread crackdown on activists and dissidents in an attempt to find out who helped Chen Guangcheng escape his house arrest and get to the US Embassy and has also been blocking news of the blind dissident's escape.
Chen, who is blind, faked an illness for a prolonged period to get his guards to ease their watch over him and then successfully escaped his house and was taken by a network of activist and dissidents across China to the US Embassy, deemed the only safe place in China for such activists.
Reports have surfaced showing activists across China, but mostly in the eastern sections of the country, are being arrested and questioned, some even beaten, in order to get information on who helped Chen escape.
Chen is a self taught lawyer who championed disability rights in China and was previously sentenced to a four year prison sentence and later released on house arrest.
Meanwhile, China's massive internet censoring network has begun to filter out any mention of the incident or of Chen's name, creating a near blackout over the incident. Popular forums across China that originally had news of the escape no longer mentioned anything about the incident, and news coverage that was first reported by outside media outlets have been blocked.
US DIPLOMATS ARRIVE
A delegation of high ranking US diplomats have arrived in Beijing including Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, who will attempt to pave the way for his boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in the hopes of reaching an agreement with the Chinese over Chen and his escape, along with the protection of his family.
Officially, Campbell arrived to lay the ground work for the annual conference between Chinese officials with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Hillary Clinton and scores of officials, but has already begun quiet back channel negotiations with his Chinese counterparts over Chen.
Reports have suggested that the US may try to bring Chen back to the United States, but this is complicated because his family is still in China and had already been arrested over his escape.
Getting Chen out of China can be tricky also, as he would have to travel with a high ranking diplomat out of the embassy. This act would be considered aggressive and offensive to Chinese officials who would likely attempt to stop the motorcade to the airport of any diplomats that are not high ranking such as Clinton's or possibly Campbell's. Chen has said he wants to remain in China but his safety is likely in jeopardy if he does say political experts in Washington.
So far there has been no apparent increased security outside the US Embassy by the Chinese.