Disabled Activists Visit Chen Guangchen; Blocked by Government
Top photo: WRIC volunteers visiting Chen Guangchen and family in his village. The banner says “Return Freedom to Chen Guangchen and His Family.”
This report and the images were provided by Jing Zhang, president of Women’s Rights in China (WRIC). After spending five years in a Chinese prison for her political believes, she now lives in the United States. China-based WRIC volunteers shared with her their first-hand accounts of their attempt to visit Chen Guangchen, a blind civil rights activist who drew international attention to human rights issues in rural areas. Self-taught lawyer Chen exposed the systematic use of forced abortion and involuntary sterilization in implementing China’s one child policy. Time Magazine named him in its list of “2006’s Top 100 People Who Shape Our World,” in the category of “Heroes and Pioneers.” He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2006, Chen Guangchen was sentenced to four years in prison. After serving his full sentence, Chen was released from prison in September, 2010, but remains under detention at his home in Dongshigu. Chen and his wife, Yuan Weijing, were reportedly beaten shortly after a human rights group released a video of their home under intense police surveillance last February.
Disabled Activists Visit Chen Guangchen; Blocked by Government
On October 14, 2011, five disability activists of Women’s Rights in China organized a visit to the blind activist and friend Chen Guangcheng in Dongshigu Village, Shuanghou Town, Jinnan County, Shandong Province. We wished to show our appreciation to the distinguished activist on the eve of the International Day for the Blind.
After we drove into Shuanghou Town to ask directions for Dongshigu Village, all passersby avoided us. Finally an elder man who was preparing to go into the fields asked us if we were looking for the blind man’s village. We said yes. He pointed us to a road under an aqueduct. There were several new buildings along the road. Several strong men stood guard at the entrance of the village.
The five activists bought some food and beverages across the road. Then the five disabled activists approached the village. Seven or eight men stood in front of the village. When they saw the activists approach, the men shouted and summoned many more men. They first took our gifts by force. The man in charge asked what we were doing there. We said that the next day would be the International Day for the Blind. We thought it proper to visit a blind friend. The headman refused to let us enter and asked where we came from. We told them that we were from distant places. Why couldn’t we enter the village? He said that not allowed meant not allowed. We asked if they were the police. He answered that they were villagers. We warned them sternly that villagers had no authority to bar us from seeing a friend.
At this time the other men who were watching started pushing us physically. Ms. Chen, who relied on her cane warned them loudly, “I can’t even stand. If you push me down, you will not hear the end of this!” As they saw we were all a group of disabled people, they stopped.
We tried to reason with them some more. “Chen Guangchen is not a criminal. You are detaining a citizen, a disabled citizen at that, indefinitely. It is illegal detention. You are also limiting the freedom of his whole family. His children can’t even go to school. So many of you with full use of your bodies against one disabled person, where is your conscience? Why are you doing this? If you don’t allow us to see him, we would petition the head of the National Disability Association, Zhang Haidi.”
One of the men sneered, “Who is Zhang Haidi? Why should we care?” Pangmei, in her wheelchair answered, “You apparently care less than Hu Jingtao.” Without saying anything more they pushed us out again. The villagers at the same time made calls that brought many cars and motorcycles, including a police patrol car, to the village.
It looked like entrance to the village was impossible. It was also growing dark. To prevent any more disadvantage, we decided to retreat first. We were not fleet of foot, so the rented van had to drive close to us. Suddenly two cars and a van cornered our vehicle and sandwiched us in the middle. They closely surrounded us as we drove out. When we stopped, they stopped, forcing us to drive at their command. From six in the afternoon to nine thirty, they stuck to us all the way from the village to the Linzi City highway entrance.
At the highway entrance, we were told that all highway exists and entrances were closed in Linzi. The weather was normal. The only reason was to prevent any more visits to Chen Guangcheng. We did not dare to stay in the city and had to follow a side road, with no rest till sun rise.
We do not think the behavior of the villagers was spontaneous but the manipulation of the police.
During the confrontation at the village entrance, a police cruiser drove right by us. Secondly, one of the black Mazda car that drove with us was staffed by plainclothes police. They constantly recorded us with camera and video. The other two cars also had their license plates covered. Thirdly, after our return to Hefei, the local national security bureau received news of our visit. Villagers alone could not have such cooperation with agents in another province.
Our banner says — Happy International Day for the Blind Chen Guangchen!
She founded Women’s Rights in China in 2007 to popularize the concept of women’s rights and advocate for the weak and underprivileged in China. As the Operations Director of All Girls Allowed, Jing directs the projects aimed at the prevention of female infanticide, the education of abandoned female orphans, the reuniting of trafficked children with their families. She has testified multiple times in the United States Congress on behalf of AGA and WRIC on the problems of China’s One Child Policy and human trafficking. In these hearings, she also presented evidence of repression these underprivileged groups suffered in the hands of the Chinese government. Jing Zhang also serves on the Advisory Board of the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB)