Since his release from prison on September 8, 2010, blind Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng has been held under 24 hour home surveillance by security police in Shandong, a province in eastern China.
According to non-governmental organisation China Human Rights Defenders, upon the release of a video showing the illegal detention of Chen and his family produced by United States-based Christian group China Aid on February 9, 2011, Chen and his wife were badly beaten by police. The video can be found on Youtube:
Campaign for Freedom
Since September 2010, Chinese activists have been campaigning to free Chen Guangcheng and his family from house arrest.
On 30 September, 2010, a number of human rights activists staged a cultural T-shirt protest [zh] in front of the Shandong regional government office in Beijing.
Activists have also been trying to visit Chen's family since October 2010, resulting in the attack on one on October 1 2011 [zh] by security guards. The woman in question, @pearlher, is now urging other activists and netizens via Twitter to visit Chen's village:
Visit to Chen's Village
Another activist, @chen_yunfei, went directly to the security police and demanded to visit Chen Guangcheng on November 30, 2010. He strategically told them that the purpose of this trip was to clear up the online rumors surrounding Chen's condition. Below is a record of their conversation:
“如网上说的是事实，我就想做二件事：第一，我想见见陈光诚先生，我想做他思想工作。我想知道他为什么这么顽固不化，与党和政府为敌呢？搞 得水火不容。我给他讲讲现在外面党和政府领导下的大好形势，讲讲前无古人后无来者的‘和谐’维稳盛世。并且劝他早日改过自新，争取早日回归社会，消除恶劣 影响。第二，无论陈光诚怎么坏，但孩子是无辜的，我想看看孩子，亲自给她点零花钱，买点书包、笔纸、玩具什么的。”
I answered: “I have come here to crosscheck the facts. If what has been said online is fake, it is defamatory to the [Chinese] government and the [Communist] party! We cannot let the anti-China force take advantage of this. I can clear up the rumors once I get hold of the truth.”
“If what has been said online is the truth, I want to do two things. First of all, I want to see Mr Chen Guangcheng and educate him. I want to know why he is so stubborn in insisting on turning himself into the enemy of the government and party. I want to share with him a rosy picture of the current ‘harmonious’ and prosperous era and persuade him to repent and return to society, so as to eliminate his negative impact. Secondly, even if Chen Guangcheng is really bad, his child is innocent. I want to see his child and give her some pocket money for exercise books, toys and whatever.”
Jail for a ‘Secret’ Crime
Security Police A: “You can't meet with Chen Guangcheng. We have a very strong grassroots base there – even water can not leak in. You cannot see him. The people there will not reason with you and we shall not be responsible for the consequences if you insist on going. Even security police will not go there. I have never met him before and I don't want to see him.”
I felt unease when he said, “You are different from him. He is a ‘traitor’. He works with overseas powers to sell out our country”.
I exclaimed, “What did he exactly sell out?”
Security Police A answered: “You don't have to know. This is a secret.” He continued, “He has many contacts with overseas forces. Exactly how many? We are still investigating, you'd better stay away from this and go home.”
In December 2010, prominent blogger Zhai Minglei wrote at length about his encounter with Chen Guangcheng before his arrest in June 2006:
I had some serious conversations with Guangcheng before he took action. I actually persuaded him not to do so as he would end up in jail and hurt his family. He shook his head and said, “I understand the situation completely. They have threatened that they would send me to prison and take revenge on my wife. Even my child would be hurt and could not attend school.” However, he said he could not bare the suffering of the villagers anymore and he had to take action, even if he would lose everything.
He ended up in jail eventually, unrepentant. I told him, “Please rest while you are in jail. We will keep on our work and you can work overtime to compensate later on.”
It lasted four years and I felt ashamed. We have done something, but nothing very remarkable. In the jail, he suffered a lot because he is blind. He suffered from diarrhea without any medical care. He lost his voice in jail.
On September 9, 2010, he was released from jail. However, he then found out that he just entered a bigger prison cell back in his village and what's more his family is jailed alongside him.
RMB 50 Million House Arrest Costs
Blogger Zhai Minglei continues:
陈光诚出狱后，我至今未能和他通上电话，所有电话被屏蔽了，难道这就是四年来我们的进步吗？以前被看守，但朋友们能通上电话，现在因为屏蔽技术的提 高，电话也不通了。夫妻俩连买菜都被禁止。连兄弟姐妹都无法探视。生活极度困难，从十月份，陈光诚的老母亲都没见过陈光诚。100多农民与看守被雇来每天 看守四个村口。外人无法进入。以前我去过陈光诚家，家徒四壁，用的还是奶奶的柴木老家俱。他的家叫寒凉。而我现在的心更为寒凉。
I could not reach him over the phone after he was released from jail: the phone line has been blocked. So this is progress? In the past, even though he was under house arrest, friends could reach him on phone. Now technology has advanced and the phone line is blocked. The couple cannot leave the house, and even close relatives cannot visit them. Their living conditions are very harsh. Since October , Chen's elderly mother has not been able to see her son. More than 100 villagers and security guards have been hired to monitor him. It is impossible for outsiders to enter the village. I once visited Chen's home. It is an empty house with some very old furniture left behind by his grandma. The house is cold but now my heart feel even colder.
Can you guess how much the Shandong government spends on maintaining Guangcheng under house arrest?
A county official revealed that the budget for this task is up to RMB 50 million [around USD 7.5 million], and until now they have spent more than RMB 10 million [around USD 1.5 million]. It is impossible to spend so much money on security labour; the money is probably shared among the personnel.
Zhai Minglei has urged concern citizens to join the ‘Free Guangcheng’ campaign:
1. Purchase flowers online to be delivered by courier, along with your message for the family;
2. Purchase toys or children’s books online to be delivered by courier to Chen’s 5-year-old daughter, along with a greeting;
3. Mail artwork on a postcard to the Chen family and their captors;
4. Mail a greeting card, invite Chen Guangcheng and his family to come visit you in your city;
5. To mark holidays such as Christmas, New Year’s Eve or Spring Festival, mail a holiday card to the Chen family and their captors;
6. Find opportunities to ask politicians, academics or other prominent individuals to inquire into Chen and his family’s situation, to visit them if possible, or even provide some audio, video or a photograph which we would then display on the Free Guangcheng website.
Blocking ‘Light and Sincerity’
The literal meaning of the name ‘Guangcheng’ is ‘light and sincerity’, but Chen Guangcheng's name is blocked in the Chinese intranet. One can find very limited discussion on the topic in web forums hosted in China.
Twitter however, is a hot spot where news and information are disseminated. Below is a selection of comments from the social networking and microblogging service: