Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong have announced the removal from office of the province's most powerful law enforcement official, Bai Jimin, in a move which analysts said could be linked to local officials' treatment of blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng.
"The Shandong provincial Party plenum chose a new provincial [ruling Chinese Communist] Party committee on May 28," the official China Economic News service reported this week.
"From now on, Liu Wei will no longer hold the post of deputy provincial Party secretary, while former standing committee members Wang Renyuan, Yan Rongzhu and Bai Jimin will no longer hold the posts of standing committee members."
Li Xiangyang, a rights lawyer from the same village as Chen, said that Bai, formerly provincial head of the powerful Party politics and law committee, would have had direct responsibility for the jailing and subsequent house arrest, as well as beatings meted out to Chen and his family over a seven-year period.
"The politics and law committee is in charge of law enforcement and the maintenance of stability," Li said. "The measures against Chen Guangcheng were a form of stability maintenance."
"Chen Guangcheng's case definitely wasn't being handled by the politics and law committee secretary in Linyi city, but was a case that was managed directly by the politics and law committee at national level," he added.
"This means that the Shandong provincial-level politics and law committee would have had to be involved as well."
But he said Bai's transfer didn't mean that Chen's request that his persecutors be investigated and punished was being met.
"Their acceptance of Chen Guangcheng's demands for a full investigation into those who persecuted him was a lie," Li said. "The Communist Party has always used lies and violence to carry out its business."
"If they were to investigate those who persecuted Chen Guangcheng, then wouldn't they just be investigating themselves?"
Chen, who is now living with his family in New York following a daring escape from 19 months of house arrest at his home village of Dongshigu, near Linyi city, has repeatedly called on Beijing to bring to justice those who held him in illegal detention and beat him and his wife, Yuan Weijing.
Bai, 58, has now been reassigned to the lower status post of chairman of the provincial People's Congress.
Shandong-based retired university professor Sun Wenguang said the apparent demotion of Bai showed a clear link to Chen's ordeal.
"The Chen Guangcheng case was a huge one for Shandong, and he is sure to have been consulted when they were in the middle of [prosecuting and detaining him]," Sun said.
"Another reason ... is that all the politics and law committees have overstepped their legal remit recently, and they have carried out a lot of illegal actions."
Sun said the Party leadership would likely seek to bring the politics and law committees to heel ahead of the forthcoming 18th Party Congress and a leadership transition and amid a political crisis sparked by the ouster of former Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai.
Chen's daring escape from his tightly guarded home in Shandong's Dongshigu village and flight to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, where he sought refuge for nearly a week, came just ahead of annual strategic dialogues between U.S. and Chinese officials, prompting a diplomatic crisis and frantic behind-the-scenes negotiations.
Reported by Wen Jian for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.