Who is Chen Guangchen – From a Small Prison to a Big One

By Yaxue Cao

…Continued from earlier posts, this is part 3. Part 1, Part 2

From a Small Prison to a Big One

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.

Yuan Weijing’s Letter (click to enlarge)

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.

Li Qun

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.

Jiang Tai Gong (姜太公)

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?

A display in Meng Liang Gu Battle Memorial in Linyi depicting people of Yimeng Mountains supporting the war effort.

“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.

10 responses to “Who is Chen Guangchen – From a Small Prison to a Big One”

  1. […] Pingback: Who is Chen Guangchen – From a small prison to a big prison | Seeing Red in China […]

  2. Yaxue C. says:

    Spokesman of the Nationalist Party in Taiwan announced that, on the 17th of this month, a “tourist” group of 78 people, consisted of politicians, authors, scholars, businessmen, actors, students, farmers, will travel to Linyi, Shandong.

  3. Yaxue C. says:

    If you speak Chinese, watch this vedio Chen Guangcheng smuggled out in February this year, listen to what he had to say, including his firm, clear and confident voice itself, and you will understand why we must do what we can to help him.

    Keep in mind that the man in the vedio had just been imprisoned for more than 4 years, yet nothing of his mind and spirit was destroyed. He is truely a free man, and he represents the best of China.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The University of New Haven must rescind the degree conferred upon this barbarian. Li Jun is no better than the current crop of US democrats and republicans who clamour to have Guantanamo remain open and who applauded water-boarding as an “enhanced” interrogation technique, Shall we start a letter-writing as well as an e-mail campaign to the dean and other leaders of the University and their benefactors, not to forget the university newspaper and local newspapers.

    • Yaxue C. says:

      Please do, “Anonymous”, please write at least to the student newspaper to call their attention to the connection between their university and the communist official responsible for persecuting Chen Guangcheng. At least they should write something about it in their paper. If the university still has the cadre training program with Shandong Province, they might even stage a protest. Give them link to this article and articles on major news outlet.

      I will write too.

      Editor-in-Chief: Matt Di Giovanni ChargerBulletin@newhaven.edu
      Assistant Editor: Joann Wolwowicz ChargerBulletinAE@newhaven.edu

  5. Yaxue C. says:

    I came upon a recent article by Yang Jianli (杨建利), a prominent Chinese activist here in the US, in which he says he is seeking international legal actions against Li Qun and other officials who are identified as human rights perpetrators in Chen’s case. He says he will make appointment with State Department officials to block these people from entering the US. If they do, he and other activists will seek to sue Li Qun and the others. Yang says he will be doing the same thing with European countries too. The article is in Chinese.

    I am glad someone with connections is doing this, because I was thinking along the same line: The perpetrators, especially Li Qun, must be pursued. Not being able to visit the US or/and some European countries will be a huge impediment to them: Training and visiting overseas are prized among Chinese officials, lending them more credentials for promotion. The least and the easiest thing the US can do is to let these people know that they can’t be a rights perpetrator and a trainee in this country at the same time.

  6. King Tubby says:

    Old fashioned letter writing in a very good cause.
    Good one.
    Other bastards will hesitate when they think about their junket visas.

  7. Meryl Mackay aka 马美丽 says:

    Amnesty International are featuring Chen Guang Cheng and his wife in their latest magazine. I will send a letter of support, as suggested by Amnesty.

  8. […] for 15 months, becoming the focus of domestic and international campaigns to secure his freedom. Seeing Red in China has a post looking at the role of Li Qun and other local officials in the detention of Chen Guangcheng. See also an article from the New […]

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