Tom Lasseter has a great new piece about his attempt to visit Chen Guangcheng, who is still imprisoned in his home along with his family.
When he was asked whether it was possible to drive down the country lane to the village of Dongshigu, the man in black wanted to know, “What are you up to?”
Told that a passenger in the back seat worked for a newspaper, the plainclothes guard gave a guttural yell. Then he lunged through the car’s half-open window and tried to drag away the journalist’s Chinese translator.
As the journalist and his colleague sped off, the man sprinted to a nearby silver Volkswagen whose license plates were covered. The Volkswagen gave chase last Thursday at speeds that reached 105 mph in the middle of the afternoon. It pulled back only after blinking its headlights, possibly to signal a roadside police checkpoint that the journalist’s vehicle was on the way.
The aggressive security cordon is maintained for just one reason: to keep a blind man from speaking to the world.
Since he left prison last September, Chen Guangcheng, a largely self-taught legal crusader, has been held under extrajudicial house arrest that’s said to include floodlights installed around his home and escorts for his 6-year-old daughter to and from school. Until the Communist Party of China decides otherwise, the 39-year-old Chen, instantly recognizable by his dark glasses and mustache, will remain tucked away in a lawless limbo.
With his prison sentence completed, Chen found himself a captive in Dongshigu. Recent attempts to visit Chen by Chinese activists and ordinary citizens have ended in violent confrontations or wild sprints through the countryside to avoid roving gangs of thugs, not unlike McClatchy’s own experience last week.
Wang Xuezhen, a 30-year-old purchasing agent for a furniture business and online activist, recounted her own recent try to enter Dongshigu.
“A bag was put on my head, I was down on the ground and those people kicked me over and over,” she said.
A man with connections near Dongshigu who’s been helping online activists gather information about Chen said he usually advised visitors not to go.
“There are guards at every intersection. It’s like playing a game in which there’s no way to get to the final round,” said the man, who asked that his name not be used out of concern for his family’s safety.
Meeting with a reporter at a university campus in Linyi, the man said it wasn’t clear to him how the Chen story would end.
“The situation has become ludicrous; so many people watching over a blind man,” he said, later adding that, “if you want to cover up the truth with lies, you have to keep coming up with lies, and the lie will only get bigger and bigger.”