BEIJING - China's state-run media mentioned the case of a blind activist reportedly holed up in the US embassy for the first time on Wednesday, saying the case was unlikely to lead to a Sino-US rupture.
The Global Times referred to the sensational case of Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng in a editorial as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Beijing for previously scheduled talks likely to be overshadowed by the affair.
Chen somehow escaped from house arrest at his home in eastern China on April 22 and is believed to be in US protective custody in Beijing, his supporters have said.
Neither government has commented on the highly sensitive issue but the Global Times, while not explicitly confirming the reports, appeared to lend credence to them by saying Chen's case was unlikely to hurt relations.
"China-US relations should not be affected by the Chen Guangcheng incident," the paper, an offshoot of the official Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, said in both its Chinese-language and English editions.
The editorial went on to downplay Chen's importance as a dissident figure, saying Western media's portrayal of him as a "heroic blind rights defender" was "mistaken."
"(His) personal view of his own influence in China is divorced from reality," it said.
"The development of human rights in China can only come from within China itself. The West has no power to continue to push China in the human rights sphere."
Chen is best known for exposing abuses of China's population-controlling "one-child policy" including forced abortions and sterilisations.
He was thrown in jail for more than four years and put under what he calls "illegal" house arrest in Shandong province since his 2010 release from prison.
Chen's escape, and a subsequent video he made detailing harsh treatment suffered by him and his family, is a huge embarrassment for China, which has thus far squelched all media or online discussion of the issue.
The editorial was not posted on the Chinese version of the Global Times' website.