From a Small Prison to a Big Prison
Chen Guangcheng was released on September 9, 2010, and has been under illegal house arrest since then. His home is monitored by multiple cameras, floodlit 24 hours a day, and all communications with the outside world are severed. Close to a hundred men guard his home and are present on every road leading to his village, intercepting, beating, robbing, and humiliating visitors.
After a video of him was smuggled out and shown to the world, he and his family were beaten. In a letter smuggled out later to seek help, his wife described how Zhang Jian (张建), the Deputy Party Secretary of Shuanghou Township, and about 70-80 national security officers raided their home and beat the couple severely, how they searched the premise and took away their computer, video recorder, tapes, chargers, flashlight and more. Later on, their windows were covered with metal sheets, and more objects were seized including Chen Guangcheng’s cane, paper and pens. Their daughter was not allowed to leave the house, and her books and toys were removed too. Three people followed Chen’s mother wherever she went. Mostly worryingly, Chen Guangcheng’s health was deteriorating from gastrointestinal bleeding.
In late July, Chen Guangcheng succeeded in calling a friend in Beijing on a stormy day when the mobile phone block failed. He and his wife were again severely beaten.
The efforts to free Chen Guangcheng started as soon as he was released from prison when a trickle of friends and netizens tried to visit him without success. Recently, the trickle has become a stream, widely reported and closely watched by many.
Who Are They? Where Does the Order Come from?
Who are Chen Guangcheng’s persecutors anyway? We know there was Li Qun (李群), the Party Secretary of Linyi who has since been promoted to Party Secretary of Qingdao, a much bigger and more important city, and a member of the Standing Committee of Shandong Provincial Party Committee.
There was Liu Jie (刘杰), the head of Linyi Public Security Bureau and scores of other officials and officers from the government to the court to the township.
Why are so many people in China willing to defy the law to carry out orders from their superiors? Where else on earth is power so unchecked, so ugly, that hundreds of thousands of people are subjected, in such a blithe way, to unbearable suffering for the interest of a mere few?
For the audience of this blog, it is particularly interesting to note that Li Qun was an assistant to the mayor of New Haven, Connecticut for three months after studying in the MPA program in the University of New Haven, in the early 2000s, through Shandong province’s cadre overseas training program. He was so proud of that three months that he wrote and published a book entitled “I Was an Assistant to an American Mayor” (《我在美国当市长助理》, Xinhua Press, 2004).
Since Chen Guangcheng’s case has become an international affair, it is clear that what has happened and is still happening in Linyi has the backing of Beijing. Where does the order come from? Why are they so afraid of this blind man?
Place of Origin
Chen Guangcheng hails from a very special place. As Li Chengpeng (李承鹏), a renowned online commentator reminded us, a mere 170 kilometers northwest of Linyi is the home of Confucius who tirelessly preached “benevolent governance.” Even closer to him once lived Jiang Tai Gong (姜太公) and Mengzi (孟子) who advised the rulers to always put people and their communities first so as to nourish peace for everyone.
With affection, his friend Teng Biao (滕彪) described Chen’s warm, confident voice, his sensibility to others’ pain, and how he directed their car, followed by officers, “insouciantly” through the streets to eventually get rid of their pursuers.
The sages would have been proud of Chen Guangcheng. Indeed, he, like them, represents the best of China.
A very short distance from Chen Guangcheng’s village was a place called Meng Liang Gu (孟良崮), where in 1947, the Communist Army fought and defeated the Nationalist Army and moved another step closer to the new China they envisioned. Linyi area was one of the oldest bases of the Communist Party before 1949 where people supported and made sacrifices for the communist cause.
What do they get?
“To toll the bell,” someone commented online, “sometimes a blind man will do.”
(Sources for this article: Writings by Teng Biao (滕彪), Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), Guo Yushan (郭玉闪), Zhai Minglei (翟明磊) and others. I apologize for not documenting the sources professionally as I should. )
Take Action: Front Line Defenders offers an easy way for you to support Chen and his family, it just takes a minute to send the form letter to your ambassador asking them to press for Chen’s freedom.
Activist Ge Xun, who runs a website supporting Chen, told Tom that he believes the only hope for Chen Guangcheng is continued domestic and international pressure. The action on the ground must be taken by Chinese people, but they are bolstered in their efforts knowing that there are friends overseas who will advocate on their behalf if they too are wrongfully imprisoned.