A Visit To Chen Guangcheng's Family
(Wang Keqin's Blog; backup at InMediaHK) Visiting Chen Guangcheng's Family: We Were Chased Out Of The Village.
Chen Guangcheng: "Many people think this way. They all complain about how bad society is, how dark things are, they all say the same thing. But have you ever thought about what have you done for this society? Have you ever spoken a single sentence on behalf of justice? Have you done anything on behalf of justice? It will be a good thing if we can change even a little bit of the bad things in society. If everybody did that, then our society will surely change."
Chen Guangcheng: "Someone needs to fight for the rights of the people without voices. I think that person is me."
My news gathering activities during the past few days in Shandong have not gone well. Many principals were afraid to talk because of various pressures. They don't dare meet with reporters. So my project is on hold.
Today is Sunday, March 8. I am unable to continue with the work. In thinking about the family of Chen Guangcheng, I decided to do something that I always wanted to -- I want to visit Chen Guangcheng in jail and his family back home. Chen Guangcheng is the person that I admire the most in China today.
I met Chen Guangcheng four years ago. It was during the autumn of 2005 when I met Chen Guangcheng being led by his wife to the cafe. His handshake was firm and powerful. He was thin, gentle and resolute. His dark glasses and his plain clothes left a deep impression with me.
Chen Guangcheng and his wife were investigating the brutal family planning practices, and they hoped that I can tell them about the major methods of investigative journalism. We spoke for many hours that day. Our exchange was very pleasant. Before meeting him, I had already known from many good friends about his many activities.
Chen Guangcheng was born in Dongshigu village, Shenghou town, Yinan country, Linyi city, Shandong province in 1971. When he was one year old, he lost his eyesight due to illness. He had never attended school until he was 18 years old. From 1994, he studied at the Qingdao School for the Blind and the Nanjing Chinese Medicine University. During that period, he learned a lot about law and stepped on the path to defend human rights.
According to the 1991 People's Republic of China Laws to Protect Physically Handicapped Persons, physically handicapped persons do not have to pay taxes. But the Linyi government continued to collect taxes from physically handicapped persons up to 1996. Chen Guangcheng complained many times to the local government to no avail. In the winter vacation period of 1996, he went to petition in Beijing. The Linyi government was instructed to stop taxing physically handicapped persons.
In 1997, the Dongshigu village began to implement a two-farmfield system which increased the burden on the villagers. Chen Guangcheng found out that the higher-level government does not allow this system. In the summer of 1998, he went to Beijing to petition. As a result, the system was terminated in the village.
According to the article 44 of the Law to Protect Physically Handicapped people, physically handicapped people are entitled to ride the subways for free. In September 2003, Chen Guangcheng was riding the Beijing subway. The ticket inspector demanded him to purchase a ticket because he did not have local identification as a blind person. Cheng Guangcheng sued the Beijing Municipal Subway Company in court and won. As a result of the case, blind people from outside Beijing could ride the Beijing subway for free.
Over the years, the villagers would come to Chen Guangcheng if they were treated unfairly or their rights were violated. Not only do physically handicapped people came to get him to defend their rights, but many physically able people also came to him. Chen Guangcheng never turned anyone away. He actively helped his neighbors to defend the dignity of the law and protect their citizen rights. So the local villagers referred to him as "Lawyer Chen" even though he does not have a lawyer's qualifications.
In the fall of 2005, he came to Beijing. During a meeting with foreign journalists, he was forcibly taken away by the Shandong police. Thereafter, he was placed under house arrest. In March 2006, he was taken away by the Yinan police and held incommunicado. On August 24, 2006, the Yinan County People's Court found Chen Guangcheng guilty of intentional destruction of property and disruption of traffic and sentenced this blind human rights activist to four years and three months of jail time.
In May that year, Chen Guangcheng was voted by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. There were only five Chinese persons on that list: Premier Wen Jiabao, environmental protection advocate Ma Jun, the famous film director Ang Lee and then Gome Electronics president Huang Guangyou.
After that, many friends went to Yinan but returned to Beijing in disappointment. I wanted to go there several times. I heard from friends that they could not even enter the village when they tried to visit the family, much less visit Chen Guangcheng in prison.
I thought that now that Chen Guangcheng has been in jail for several years, Yinan should be very "harmonious" and "peaceful."
Early morning on March 8, I and my student Zhou Fuzhi and two local Shandong friends drove towards Yinan county.
Chen Guangcheng's family includes a mother and two children (two and four years old). So we bought lots of food stuff and toys to visit them.
On the way, a friend called and hoped that we could also bring some money. Actually, I had already prepared for that.
At around 14:15, the car was about five kilometers from Meng Lianggu on State Highway 205. Many people seemed to be waiting for transportation by the roadside. So we stopped to ask for directions. It turned out that this was the entrance to Chen Guangcheng's village. As soon as we turned the car around, a middle-aged man came over to tap on the car window: "What are you doing here?" We said: "We are not doing anything." He asked again, but we ignored him and went ahead. After a while, we saw that the man was following us on motorcycle.
His action made me uneasy. Before coming here, I expected some risks for this meeting. I considered that the mobile telephone of Yuan Weijing (the wife of Chen Guangcheng) may be monitored. In order to make sure that I can see them, I did not contact her by phone beforehand.
We accelerated and entered the village less than 300 meters away. There was an old man sitting by the road. We asked him where Chen Guangcheng's house is. He told us that it was inside a lane about 30 meters behind the car. As we turned around, the man on the motorcycle arrived. He interrogated the old man who spoke to us and then he immediately followed us.
The car stopped at the entrance to the lane. The man on the motorcycle immediately came over and blocked the car door from opening. He asked: "What are you doing here?" We said, "We are not doing anything." He asked again: "What are you doing here? You can't enter!" We said: "We are here to visit relatives. What business is this to you?" We got out of the car and opened the trunk to take out the food.
The man on the motorcycle was making a telephone call. When he saw us coming over with the stuff, he stepped in front of us and said: "Who are you looking for? You can't enter!" I said: "What gives you the right to stop me?" He said: "I am from here. These are our rules."
In an instant, four or five men came out of the lane and asked us whom were were looking for. I said: "I am looking for Chen Guangcheng. Is that okay?" A tall and fat man said: "You can't come in. You better leave." He shoved me hard so that I stepped back a few steps. Then he asked me if I wanted to have a fight. I said: "Who are you people? What are you blocking us?" He said: "We are from this village. If we say that you can't visit, you can't visit." The man on the motorcycle: "Don't you know what he did? And you still want to see him? Leave quickly!"
I said: "What can't I see them?" The man said: "Who are you?" I said: "I am a citizen of the People's Republic of China. What about it?" They did not reply. Instead they laughed and kept up their harassment.
The other three people in my group were also being pushed and shoved and we were retreating. Then another four or five of them showed up. My student Zhou Fuzhi was dragged to the roadside by a thin man who just came and joined another man to push him around. They said, "Do you want to to fight?" My student was almost toppled over several times. My two other companions were also being pushed and shoved around.
The fat man, the man on the motorcycle and several others continued to push and shove me harder and harder. They almost hit me on the head and the shoulders several times. I was forced to turn around. But they kept pushing and shoving me from behind. My student tried to come over to help, but he was immediately pulled over by several other men.
My student was holding a case of milk and he said: "How about this? Can you ask his wife to come out? We will leave as soon as we give the stuff to her." One man said: "No, you can't see her. You give the stuff to us, and we will give it to her."
Our driver also said: "Let the family come out. We will leave as soon as we hand over the stuff." But they refused.
We were concerned that there was little likelihood that they will hand over the stuff to the family of Chen Guangcheng. So we continued to reason with them to let us personally hand over the stuff that we bought.
Then we wanted to to give the stuff to the neighbors of Chen Guangcheng to hand over to the family, but we could not reach any villagers due to the interference from these men.
We could only step backwards as they pushed and shoved us. When they saw us retreating, they were gleeful and said: "Get out of here quickly! Do you want to have a fight?" The fat man who was pushing and shoving me forced me to the left side of the car. The other people were also forced back to the car. We had to put the stuff back into the car trunk.
At this time, it has been more than 10 minutes after we entered the village. We felt that there was no chance of us getting the stuff to Chen Guangcheng's wife. If we stayed, their attacks will increase in ferocity. If even one of the four of us tried to hit back with even one small move, it could triggered an all-out assault.
The situation was getting critical. The driver and the student kept telling me to withdraw and get onto the car. But the assault had already begun.
They pushed me back to the right side of the car. The driver had opened the two doors on the right side already. As I entered the car, the fat man pushed me hard from behind. As I and the student Zhou Zhifu got into the car, the fat man kicked my shoulder while saying: "Are you leaving? Are you leaving?" Then he bend back and threw a punch at my face. I warded the blow off with my right arm. By this time, the car was moving forward.
When my student entered the car, the thin man said: "What aren't you leaving? Do you want a fight?" Then he kicked the student twice. My student was very angry and glared back. The man said: "What are you looking at? What are looking at?" Then he threw a punch that hit the shoulder.
We managed to close the doors after the car moved more than 10 meters ahead. All the while, the men tried to chase us on foot.
We also saw that they kept making calls on their mobile phones. The driver said, "Oh no, they are calling more people over to stop us!"
The car got onto the road. Three motorcycles followed us close behind.
At 14:30, we left the village and headed in the direction of Yinan county city. After traveling two kilometers, I finally got through to Weijing by phone. I was hoping to see her and hand over some stuff and money to her. I also wanted to tell her that we were nearby.
Weijing picked up the phone. I said: "Hello, Weijing. This is Wang Keqin."
She said: "Master Wang, you have come."
I said: "I came to see you. We got near to your home but a bunch of people chased us out."
When she heard that, she was scared: "Master Wang, are you alright?"
I said: "We are alright. We just got kicked a few times."
She said: "Master Wang, you don't know that but these people have been around our home for more than one year. All the people who came to see us last year were chased away. Some of them were injured. You should leave as quickly as possible. They won't let you go just like that. There will be cars with no license plate coming after you."
I asked her who these people were. Village leaders, or village residents? Weijing said, "These are society dregs. There are 22 persons in total. There is always 11 persons around our home, 24 hours per day. They are posted around the courtyard. They work in shifts, so there is always someone there.
I was very shocked.
Weijing then said: "Everybody around our house is their people. There are two people guarding the entrance to the village. Most people cannot even enter. You are the first people who came to see us in 2009. It is not easy to enter the village. You were just over 10 meters from our house. When we go shopping or work in the fields, someone is watching us. At night, they even stoop outside the window to eavesdrop on us."
We cannot believe that Chen Guangcheng's family -- consisting of his wife, his mother and two young girls (one age four and another age two) -- was being subjected to this sort of thing every day.
I said: "Weijing, I understand. I bought something for you today. We were just chased out. We cannot get in again. Can you think of a way of meeting us in Menglianggu?"
Weijing replied, "I'll try my best."
I hung up the phone and I asked the driver to turn around to look for Menglianggu.
But a short while later we spotted two motorcycles parked about 200 meters in front of us.
Just as Yuan Weijing said, those people were not going to let us get away. They were following us! I was shocked, because things were worse than I thought. The local Shandong friends were very nervous and repeatedly asked us to leave. So I told the driver to turn around again and head towards the Yinan county city.
Then I called Weijing again and said that we won't be able to meet because we were being followed. Weijing got very worried when she heard that. She said, "Master Wang, you get out of here as quickly as possible! Get out of Shandong! Don't come to see us again!" She kept telling me to pay attention to personal safety and get out of Shandong as quickly as possible.
I hung up the phone and I stayed silent for a long time. Then I called Cheng Guangfu, the elder brother of Cheng Guangcheng. I wanted to ask him if he was at the county city; if so, I can hand the stuff over to them to give to Weijing.
But Chen Guangfu's reply shocked me. He said, "Master Wang, you better get out of here as quickly as possible. I cannot let you get into trouble. The last time, my mother and I met with a visitor in a small restaurant. But someone followed me. As a result, the restaurant was shut down and fined 20,000 yuan. It is not worthwhile to get innocent people into trouble. You have to be very careful."
We only wanted to visit the family of Chen Guangcheng and get some toys and candies to the children, milk and fruit to the senior citizen as well as giving them some money for living expenses. But we were not able to accomplish even that.
At that moment, the driver reminded me to fasten my seat belt, because the motorcyclists were catching up to us again.
We sped fast on the road. We did not dare to slow down. Based upon what Yuan Weijing and Chen Guangfu said, I knew that they were deeply concerned about our personal safety. The people who attacked us were bound to report what happened. Will Yinan county intercept us? The driver was very concerned and decided to take a detour. When we arrived at the Zhangzhuang town intersection, we turned south onto a rocky trail. But the road was impassable.
We had nowhere to go ahead even as our pursuers are nearing. There was several piles of stone debris by the roadside, so we drove up and hid behind one of the piles.
Two trucks were loading the rocks and they stirred up clouds of dust.
We sat in the car and thought about what happened before. Nobody wanted to speak.
We have to get out of Shandong province as quickly as possible!
If we head towards the county city, the driver was worried that the local police would stop us. If we turn back, there is one road near Shenghou town that would lead us onto the expressway. But the driver was worried that they may set up a roadblock. Finally, I remembered how we got away from the Shanxi illegal coal mine thugs -- we were going to set ourselves up as a wedding limousine!
So Fuzhi walked on foot to the expressway and went to purchase wedding limousine license plates. At 16:30, Fuzhi came back. We put the tags of "One hundred years of good relationship" and "Our hearts will be together forever" to cover up the license plates. We even up a happiness sign on the front window.
Afterwards, we successfully crossed the border of Yinan county. At 20:00 in the evening, we left Shandong province. Then I called the wife of Chen Guangcheng: "We are safe." She told me: "I am being surrounded by three or four people at this moment, so I can't talk to you. I am glad that you were able to leave safely. I was really concerned that you would be harmed for coming here to see us."
Even if Chen Guangcheng had committed the most heinous crime, they cannot imprison his entire family!!!
Even if Chen Guangcheng had committed the most heinous crime, they cannot top his friends from visiting his family!!!
Weijing said: "I am a woman. All my family members are female. They mobilized 11 strong men to watch us 24 hours a day. They surround our home. How do we pass our days? The worst part is that they try to eavesdrop on us sometimes at night. The window in my room has been polished to a sheen because they constant lean on it."