If you followed the news this weekend, you may have heard about Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng's thrilling escape from house arrest. The top of this New York Times story has the details:
BEIJING — For months, Chen Guangcheng, one of China’s best-known dissidents, played a cat-and-mouse game with the phalanx of guards encircling his home. He dug a tunnel to try to escape, a friend says, but was found out. And he sneaked out a video that alerted his supporters to the smothering confinement he said he and his wife endured at the hands of the men who kept them virtual prisoners in their rural farmhouse.
Then last Sunday night, in an improbable escape, Mr. Chen, who is blind and reportedly weak from months of mistreatment, scaled the wall that had been built around his house, slipped past his security detail and made a desperate sprint to apparent safety in Beijing. The daring rush for freedom could not have been possible without a small network of activists who risked detention to help him and who, supporters with knowledge of the escape said, used coded messages to communicate and elude a surveillance apparatus that is one of the world’s most pervasive.
By Saturday, three activists who had either helped him or had been advocates in the past had disappeared, including the woman who drove Mr. Chen more than 300 miles to Beijing and a man who admitted to meeting the dissident as he was shuttled between safe houses in the capital. The man’s wife said he was taken away by the police.
Friends of Mr. Chen, along with people in the Chinese government, say he is now inside the American Embassy in Beijing. If true, that creates diplomatic headaches for the United States just days before Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other American officials arrive for annual talks.
Harboring one of China's most well-known dissidents -- you may recall Christian Bale was roughed up trying to visit him in December -- sets up some interesting diplomatic challenges. And, in fact, the U.S. has sent a senior diplomat to Beijing to manage the crisis.
It's an amazing story, a tale of dramatic escape, made all the more compelling by the activist's blindness. One story I read quoted Ai Weiwei, another government critic who has faced slightly less hostile residential detention. After talking to a friend familiar with the escape, Ai said:
“You know he’s blind, so the night to him is nothing,” Mr. Ai said the friend told him. “I think that’s a perfect metaphor.”
In any case, you can read a dozen stories and not have the answer to what should be a shockingly simple question: From what, exactly, is Chen Guangcheng dissenting?
Once you find out, you have to wonder why it's missing from all the stories.