Tag Archives: Chen Guangcheng

Reflections on Chen Guangcheng’s Escape

First off, apologies to everyone for the lack of updates as of late. In part, it’s because I’ve been trying to keep a lower profile since certain CCTV hosts threatened to sue me, but mostly I’ve just been extremely busy with the film and a number of personal things. That will remain true for a few weeks at least, but please stay tuned, as I’ve got some good stuff in the cannon for later.

Anyway, now that Chen’s been safely in the US for a while and the American right-wing seems to have abandoned its utterly idiotic quest to paint him as a pro-life Christian figure, it seems as good a time as any to reflect on Chen’s escape or, more to the point, the collective reaction to it, and what, exactly, went wrong.

The mistake that I think almost everyone made was assuming that Chen was emotionally and mentally stable enough to be handling the international media or making decisions about his own life and his family’s lives within days of his harrowing escape from nearly two years of torture and isolation. I was taking the latest word on what Chen had said a bit too seriously, without fully considering what he had been through and what effect that probably had on his mental and physical state. Nor was I giving adequate consideration to the fact that he probably wasn’t aware that his every word was being amplified and broadcast as gospel to the world. I wasn’t that harsh in my criticism of the US Embassy at the time, but my concerns about the its handling of the case proved to be unwarranted.

(I want to stress, also, that it’s not my intention to criticize the media for broadcasting Chen’s statements as news. This was, after all, a massive story, and what its central player was saying is undeniably news. If anything, perhaps those closest to Chen should have advised him not to speak with the media for a little while, or not published everything he said live on Twitter. But in their position, I suspect I would have done the exact same thing. Basically, it was a very difficult situation for everyone.)

That said, and with the caveat that I have no inside info whatsoever, it would certainly seem as though US officials may have made the same mistake. One gets the impression they may have been rushing to resolve the situation before the SED talks, which is totally understandable from a policy perspective. But from a psychological perspective, it would almost certainly have been better to give Chen more time. That may not have been possible — I don’t know — but Chen being left alone in the hospital after he left the embassy would seem to be a sign that the US perhaps hadn’t fully considered his mental state and how he might feel abandoned in a situation like that.

Emotions certainly played a role in my own reaction to the story, too. Obviously, Chen’s case is one I had been following for quite a while, and his unexpected escape and subsequent release from the embassy all took me completely by surprise. I think it was an emotional time for a lot of us who have been following the case closely, and in my own case at the very least, it probably led me to draw conclusions — or at least to suggest potential conclusions — too quickly before the situation had been given a chance to play out.

That said, I maintain that my cynicism about the Chinese government’s commitment to holding up its side of the bargain was entirely warranted. Although US diplomats entering the picture certainly changed the situation, the fact remains that there is virtually nothing in Chen’s past to indicate the government would have any interest in treating him fairly, redressing his grievances, or allowing him to leave the country. Trust must be earned, and although (despite some suggestions to the contrary) I do not believe China’s government to be entirely evil, it had done nothing to earn any sort of trust with regards to Chen’s case. Aside from bringing his family to Beijing — albeit as a bargaining chip of sorts to get him out of the embassy — there were no signs of good faith ((I do not consider the Foreign Ministry’s statements to be a sign of anything. Yes, it said Chen would be allowed to leave China, but it also said Melissa Chan broke “relevant laws” and that Al Jazeera’s English bureau in Beijing is operating normally, among numerous other lies…)), and more than a few indications of bad faith. Chen’s phone service was interfered with, journalists were barred from visiting him, and even US diplomats were kept out at times. Chaoyang Hospital — a fairly unpleasant place under the best of circumstances ((my wife had surgery there once; it was an awful experience.)) — turned into a bizarre sort of prison with helmeted security guards and plainclothes police roaming the halls.

Of course, Chen ultimately was allowed to leave (though I doubt he’ll be allowed to return). Under the circumstances, that was the right move for China and the government should be applauded for making it ((Then it should be condemned for failing to make it years earlier, failing to prosecute Chen’s captors, and failing to protect Chen’s family in Shandong from the illegal and ongoing campaign of revenge for his escape.)). The cleanup of Chen’s home village and the disappearance of the guards there is a sign that the government may even be planning to investigate Chen’s imprisonment as it promised to, though Chen Kegui’s lawyers not being allowed to represent him is an extremely troubling sign. However, that doesn’t change the fact that prior to Chen’s flight out of China, there was plenty of precedent for pessimism and the only reason for optimism was that now the US was more directly involved, sort of. That turned out to be enough, but I don’t think it was at all unreasonable of me to be skeptical.

In Chen Guangcheng Case, Following the Money

I have long wondered exactly what role money and corruption played in Chen Guangcheng and his family’s de-facto imprisonment in Dongshigu. In the video Chen released yesterday, he addresses this question directly.

A full English translation of this video can be found here, and I recommend you read all of it, but here is the relevant section:

I remember when they humiliated me last August in the Cultural Revolutionary style, they told me, you said in your video that 30 million yuan was spent on (your house arrest), that was the 2008 figure — now the amount is more than double that and that’s not even including bribery money for officials in Beijing. Some of the hired guards have complained that they make so little since most of the money has gone to others.

It’s been a great opportunity for all of them to make money. As I understand, the township gives team leaders money to hire guards and each guard is supposed to get 100 yuan per day. Those team leaders tell potential hires that they get only 90 of the 100 yuan. Since most farmers get 50 to 60 yuan working in the field, and the guard job is considered safe and comfortable with meals included, of course people are willing to take it. In just one team, with more than 20 guards, the team leader gets 200 yuan extra per day. How corrupt is that?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that corruption was involved, of course, but from what Chen describes it sounds as though part of the motivation for Chen and family’s detention could be economic. Or, to be more specific, part of the motivation for Chen’s continued detention could be economic. I imagine the initial decision to keep him under house arrest was motivated primarily by petty vindictiveness, but from Chen’s description, it seems his detention has created an economy of sorts in his small village and beyond.

This is Dongshigu, the village where Chen and his family live. As you can see (note the scale in the map) it is quite small, and surrounded by farmland. As Chen himself notes, his imprisonment has created hundreds of well-paying jobs for local villagers, not to mention plenty of opportunities to make money on the side (I’m sure all those guards get hungry). As Chen also explains, anyone above the bottom of the guard organization is probably making additional money on the side by skimming from the money that’s handed down to pay the guards.

In other words, there’s an economic impetus for many people in the village participate in and perpetuate the imprisonment of the Chen family. And in a small farming village, the difference between 50 RMB a day and 90 RMB a day can be enormous. It’s no surprise the Linyi authorities haven’t had any trouble finding guards or — as far as I’m aware — met much resistance from villagers in the surrounding area.

But the village economy is small potatoes (figuratively) compared to what it sounds like the Linyi officials have done at higher levels. Within the Linyi budget, it seems the folks tasked with “maintaining stability” have been able to draw huge amounts of money to fund the Chen family’s continued imprisonment, and it’s doubtful anyone there is interested in seeing that budget shrink again. So, in addition to the legal risks associated with releasing Chen Guangcheng, many officials may also be worried releasing Chen would result in massive cuts to the local stability maintenance budget. With the exception of Ron Swanson, who is fictional, government officials in any country tend to want to maintain or increase the funding for their departments, and the only way security officials in Linyi can do that is if they continue to hold Chen Guangcheng.

Moreover, from Chen’s description of what his captors have said, it certainly sounds like Linyi officials are paying bribes to higher officials in Beijing to turn a blind eye, and that puts them in a rather dangerous position. Anytime they decide to stop paying those bribes, they risk some disgruntled Beijing official actually doing something about Chen’s detention as revenge for having cut off the flow of cash into his pocket. And even if they were to release Chen’s family first and then stop sending the bribe money, there’s no guarantee Beijing officials wouldn’t be annoyed, and no reason why Linyi couldn’t still be held responsible.

Of course, there are even stronger political reasons for Linyi officials to detain Chen and his family, and for the central government to pretend they don’t know what’s happening (which I expect they will continue to do). But it seems that Chen’s detention has also become a way for some officials in Linyi and Beijing to line their pockets, and that could be just as difficult a hurdle to overcome as the politics.

All of this raises an interesting question: what happens now that Chen is free? In the short term, it certainly seems Linyi is doubling-down on its extralegal detention strategy, as members of Chen’s family seem to remain under close guard. But in the longer term, things are less clear. With Chen free, continuing to hold his innocent family may become a significant a political liability, and the advantages to restricting their freedom when Chen is already speaking freely about his imprisonment and treatment seem minimal. Chen’s escape will most certainly shift the political benefit/risk balance in holding his family, and that’s something Linyi officials are probably already wondering about.

That said, Chen’s escape doesn’t do much of anything to change the economic situation. A lot of people from farmers all the way up to high level local and national officials stand to lose significant sources of income if the Chen security detail is downsized or eliminated completely. How much of a factor will that play in Linyi officials’ decision making if Beijing doesn’t decide to step in and make the decision for them? It’s hard to say.

On a somewhat related note: I strongly encourage everyone to follow the stories of Chen’s family, especially Chen Kegui, and the activists who helped him escape, especially He Peirong, who has not been on Twitter or Gchat since yesterday morning and is apparently under arrest in Nanjing.

Chen Guangcheng Escapes, But Chilling Signs for His Family

For those of you who live in the wrong hemisphere or don’t have a Twitter account, here’s the big news: Chen Guangcheng has escaped. According to activists, he is now somewhere “100% safe” in Beijing, though it’s not clear where. There has been some speculation that he might be inside some embassy; so far, the US Embassy has declined to comment and as far as I’m aware no one else has been asked.

The news of Chen’s escape is fantastic, and it’s important to note here that since Chen was released from prison years ago, there’s nothing illegal about this “escape”. The fact is that Chen and his family were being held illegally, and talk of Chen’s “escape” implies he’s guilty of some crime or evading the law in a way that might be misleading. But Chen is free, reportedly, and that’s a good thing. It should have been true years ago.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Chen’s family, who are mostly incommunicado. Most concerning is the story of Chen Kegui, Guangcheng’s nephew. Yaxue Cao has written an excellent post and interviewed Chen for Seeing Red in China, so I highly recommend you read his full remarks there, but the short version of the story is this: Last night, thugs who did not identify themselves as police burst into Kegui’s home and began beating people. Kegui grabbed two kitchen knives to defend himself with, and probably after slashing some of them, scared the assailants away. Then, terrified, he called the police to turn himself in. While he was waiting for the police, he spoke with Yaxue Cao, and described his situation as clear-cut self defense. (If you speak Chinese, I highly recommend listening to the audio recording of this conversation).

Chillingly, the local government has since released this short news bulletin on the incident, via the Yi’nan County People’s Government Public Information Net:

On April 26, Dongshigu village resident Chen Kegui injured local government officials and staff workers with knives. At present, Chen Kegui has fled, the injured parties are being treated, and the local public security organs are on the hunt for Chen Kegui. The relevant parties will be dealt with according to the law.

That’s the entire report. Unsurprisingly, it mentions nothing of Chen Kegui’s motivations, or that the incident occurred within Chen’s home, which the cadres had entered violently and without warrants. Mentions of this report seem to be being deleted from Sina Weibo, but that likely doesn’t mean much. These will likely be deleted soon, but comments are pouring in on Sohu’s reposting of this story, and they seem overwhelmingly skeptical of the government’s official story, and very supportive of Chen Kegui:

Why would he stab them, why would a commoner want to go stab them, release the facts.

How can you not mention Chen Guangcheng? Please release the location and motive for this incident.

Why would he stab them? Please reveal the truth….

Too bad he didn’t stab them to death.

News items need to have some key elements. A news story like this, without head or tail [missing important details], is obviously covering something up, there’s no way for people to believe it. Does everyone believe in rumors? Because from the completeness of this story, it looks like most rumors are much more thorough than the official reports.

Sohu, please leave the comments up so that the officials in Shandong can see: the people [Chinese people] aren’t that easy to trick.

You’d better release the truth soon, or everyone will just hop the wall [circumvent the GFW] and find out even more truth, and that would be bad!

Is this [Chen Kegui] the hero of legend?

Good, stab these dogfucking rural cadres to death.

Well done citizen, I support you.

You [Chen Kegui] must stay safe. The common people won’t rat you out. These cadres are a band of tyrant thugs.

This is a true hero! The people support you!

Although this shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone, it’s clear from the report that the local government has already deemed that Chen’s actions were not in self-defense. It’s also probable that they’re lying about Chen Kegui having fled, as Chen himself says he called the police and was waiting for them while talking to Yaxue Cao. (And, indeed, fugitives intending to flee arrest don’t generally stop for half an hour to give phone interviews).

So, help from the local government is out of the question. Without intervention by some higher authority, Chen Kegui has no hope for justice. And Chen Guangcheng’s other family members may not be much better off, as they remain in Dongshigu village and reporters and activists haven’t been able to get in touch with them.

Will a higher authority intervene? Chen Guangcheng has already posted a video appeal to Premier Wen Jiabao on Youtube, and it has even been making the rounds on Chinese social media sites, although copies of the video are deleted swiftly when they’re discovered. But if the past ten years have taught us anything, it’s that Wen Jiabao talks a good game when it comes to political and legal reform, but he doesn’t do much of anything.

I will be following this situation as closely as possible in the coming days and weeks, and I strongly urge members of the foreign press as well as foreign diplomats to look into the case of Chen Kegui and find out what is happening to the other members of Chen Guangcheng’s family. The media spotlight will not necessarily help, but if the Linyi government is allowed to pursue its own interests in the Chen Kegui case without any sort of oversight, Chen is well and truly screwed.

(Side note: Now might be as good a time as any to remind readers that American film company Relativity Media has cooperated with Linyi officials, despite full knowledge of Chen Guangcheng’s situation, to film the buddy comedy 21 and Over in Linyi. Relativity Media should absolutely be held accountable for its cooperation with these people.)

Guest Post: Shame on Shaun Rein

The following is a guest post by Tom of Seeing Red in China. Of note also is a similar piece on The Peking Duck.

Yesterday Shaun Rein published a piece in Forbes bashing CNN’s lack of journalistic integrity when it helped Christian Bale organize a trip to Linyi. The main point of his article is sound, CNN did clearly cross a line from reporting news to creating news, but in Shaun’s efforts to hawk his new book and attack CNN, he grossly misrepresents what is going on in Linyi, exposing his own shameful lack of journalistic integrity.

Please bear with me as I pick apart the worst paragraphs of the piece:

“My issue here is not with Bale. In general, I believe one should follow the laws of nations that one visits, and that Bale should do so, but I also generally believe in free speech, no matter how misguided.”

It should be noted that it is not against the law to visit the city of Linyi. At no point did uniformed police officers or even the thugs that chased him away claim that what he was doing was against the law. Rein’s implication that it was in someway illegal serves only to obscure the issue.

One of the reasons I wrote my upcoming book, The End of Cheap China, was to dispel myths and distortions in the Western world about China, by covering both the good and bad of its evolution and trying to bring nuance where organizations like CNN bring activism. Far too many news organizations in the West perpetuate outdated or simply wrong views of the Chinese government and its people for the sake of getting eyeballs or, perhaps, to try to help contain the country. It is sad when CNN’s coverage of China becomes more like tabloid fodder than the gold standard it once was.

Here Shaun speculates that CNN might actually be trying to contain China, when it was covering what actually happened when Christian Bale tried to enter the village. Yes, it was 100% wrong for CNN to hire the van at Bale’s request, but CNN didn’t hire the thugs that kept Bale from visiting Chen Guangcheng. Pretending that human rights abuses don’t happen in China is hardly what I would call “nuanced” or balanced. It’s on par with Global Times pretending that the pollution in Beijing is harmless fog, hardly something worthy of Forbes.

I have a chapter in The End of Cheap China on the lessons I’ve learned from China’s sex industry and how it seems contradictory at first glance that brothels exist in the open everywhere, without local police molestation, while the central government cracks down on Internet porn. A closer look shows that China’s sex industry actually is a friction point between the central and local governments, a juncture where interests often diverge.

The central government might try to shut brothels but is stopped by corrupt local officials. President Hu has called local corruption a serious problem and has made rooting it out a major goal of his administration. My book tries to shed light on the interplay and often diverging interests between local and central government officials and why improvements are sometimes much slower than the central government wants.

Through censoring web searches for information on Chen Guangcheng and Linyi, the Central gov’t has clearly displayed that it actually has a similar interest in keeping Chen’s illegal detention a secret within China. While Shaun’s point about the difficulty of controlling prostitution might be true, Chen’s initial detention was the result of him opposing local implementation of a national policy. In this case the central gov’t’s interest in keeping Chen silenced does align with the local gov’t’s interest in saving face.

As a Chinese co-worker told me the other day, when there is one corrupt official, it’s a problem with that official, when there are hundreds of corrupt officials, it’s a problem with the system.

Bale and CNN’s publicity stunt indicts an entire political system without delving deeper into the reality of Chen’s detention and the interplay between the central and local governments.  I have no idea about Chen’s detention, and if he is being wronged or not, but if there are issues with his case, I am not convinced that calling the entire political class “disgusting,” as Bale does, can help.

When I pressed Shaun on his ignorance pertaining to Chen’s detention, he said again that he would not comment on something he had no knowledge of. The documentation of Chen’s abuse has been widely reported for nearly three months. To have “no idea” about it seems like he is feigning ignorance, otherwise he must have only been reading People’s Daily (even Global Times reported on Chen). It’s fine that he isn’t convinced that Bale calling the system disgusting is helpful, but how can he complain that CNN didn’t delve deeper into the reality when he himself has no idea about it?

Far too many in the West indict China’s whole governing class and system when a single local official does something stupid or brutish. Yet they criticized only a lone thuggish police officer in New York for pepper-spraying Occupy Wall Street protesters. They didn’t called [sic] President Obama evil for what that one officer did, or call for an overthrow of all of America. Yet Bale did that in China’s case, and, worse, CNN helped him.

So much is wrong with this paragraph that it hurts. Firstly, what is happening in Linyi absolutely involves the entire political system. Local officials who were initially involved in Chen’s case have been promoted to provincial level offices, and the brief mention in Global Times indicates that the central gov’t is aware of this illegal detention. Yet, the central gov’t has yet to take any action to help Chen.

The imprisonment of Chen does not rely on a “single local official” but involves village leaders, city level leaders, and provincial level leaders along with a squad of hired thugs.

Shaun pretends that this is in some way comparable to thuggish cops pepper spraying protesters. This would be similar if 1) the police in the pepper spray incident involved faced no punishment, ever 2) similar events happened throughout the US several times each day and 3) domestic newspapers were not allowed to report on the incident and information related to it was scrubbed from the internet. However, Shaun did say that he had “no idea about Chen’s detention”, so I guess it isn’t too surprising how wildly inaccurate his comparison is.

The last thing the world needs is increased tension between the world’s two superpowers. CNN should be ashamed for becoming more like a tabloid and inserting itself into the story rather than maintaining journalistic integrity and providing an objective view of its subjects.

I would argue that it is actually not a journalist’s job to be concerned about whether or not the story they are publishing creates tension between China and the US. The role of the journalist however almost certainly demands checking the facts and reporting the whole story when it does appear.

Shaun argued more eloquently at the beginning of the piece, CNN should not have involved itself so closely in the creation of this story, but it would have been a much stronger piece if he had demonstrated any of the integrity he expects from CNN.

On Chen Guangcheng and Batman

Today, CNN posted a video in which they accompanied actor Christian Bale on a trip to Linyi to visit Chen Guangcheng, where he was promptly (and predictably) roughed-up and kicked out by thugs. They’ve since also posted a follow-up interview with Bale about it.

Anyway, as you might imagine given Bale’s star power, this story has gotten some play today, despite the ongoing craziness in Wukan and the news that Sina Weibo and other Beijing-based microblog providers must implement real-name requirements for all users. (This, I think, will be the death of Weibo as a political platform in China, but there will be time to talk about that later).

The ‘Batman Searches for Chen Guangcheng’ story has also elicited a number of negative reactions on Twitter. There seem to be two main criticisms of it; the first being that CNN was making news here rather than reporting it, and that Bale might just have been doing it as a publicity stunt. Both true, and yet to both I say: who cares?

CNN should not be “making news” by facilitating a confrontation between Bale and Linyi authorities? I’m not captain journalism or anything, but that’s probably true. They say Bale’s camp approached them about it, and we’ll probably never know the full background, but I don’t see it as particularly important. The method employed by CNN may have been unethical by journalistic standards, but the result they achieved via that method is exactly the point of journalism: getting attention to problems that people wouldn’t otherwise hear about. Now, do the ends justify the means? Not always, but here, even if they don’t, I don’t care. CNN has no credibility to lose in China anyway — see their ridiculous doctoring of photos during the riots in Tibet in 2008 — and aside from “you broke the rules” I don’t really see the harm in what they did here.

Bale is just making a PR move after accusations of being a propagandist for appearing in Zhang Yimou’s Flowers of War? It’s certainly possible. But again, why does this matter? A good deed done for selfish reasons is still a good deed. If letting people know about Chen’s case is what happens when Christian Bale gets selfish, I hope he spends the rest of his career so self-absorbed that he has to set up permanent housing in Linyi. (Take that, Relativity Media!)

Ah, but is it a good deed? There have also been some suggestions that Bale’s stunt could bring harm to Chen and his family, or hurt the chances of him being released. Of course, we can’t know what’s going on in the heads of the officials who are holding Chen and his family, but I’m not to worried about this, for two reasons.

  • Chen, by law a free man, and his entire family have already been locked away for a year with no charges or legal basis. They’ve been beaten and denied even the most basic access to, well, basically anything. And that’s just what we know has happened. What could Bale’s visit possibly do to make things worse?
  • “Quiet diplomacy,” historically speaking, doesn’t seem to work particularly well on these high profile cases. Moreover, Ai Weiwei’s release showed that with a bit of star power, a Western media firestorm can (potentially) influence things for the better. Of course, the personalities and the cases are different, but as I see it, Bale bringing attention to the subject can only help. If the Chinese government was going to release Chen on its own, they would have done it when he was released from prison. No one was following his case then, nor did it become big in the West until this fall, at which point Chen and his family had been under house arrest for half a year already. Keeping quiet and hoping the government will do the right thing may work sometimes, but it won’t work here.

Hopefully that makes sense. It’s been a long few days and we’re off again for a filming trip this weekend, so if I’ve made some crucial logical error here I won’t be able to address it until after we get back.

New Tactics to Rally Around Blind Activist Lawyer

For months, netizens, journalists and ‘adventure tourists’ have been trying to visit blind lawyer and human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, who has been detained at his home at Linyi, Shandong province since late 2010. Not a single one of them have succeeded in breaking the defense held up by local officials, police and thugs, who are not shy to use brutal violence.

But Beijing netizen and experienced ‘grass mud horse’ Xiao Cuo (twitter: @zokio) does not think this is a dead end. Quite the contrary, he encourages netizens to use their imagination and design new tactics to rally around Chen’s cause. He sees Chen’s case as an opportunity to nurture the civil society and citizenship concepts in China.

On 27 November, he blogged about (as expected, the original is being deleted) his experience of distributing and putting up notices about Chen Guangcheng’s cause around Linyi city and Chen’s village. Rather than trying to approach him, they attached notices to electric poles, village house walls and even notice boards in Linyi University. These notices have attracted attention from students and local villagers. Perhaps the thugs responsible for holding up Chen are amongst them?

Xiao Cuo dubbed his project “Operation Old Military Doctor”. Back in the 1980s, roving doctors in China often boasted themselves as experienced “military doctors” who could cure many diseases in advertisements they put up on electric poles and street walls.

He thinks that violence should be avoided, and a new mode of operation is needed. Reaching Chen should no longer be the movement’s aim. Rather, netizens should extend the battle zone to a wider area, and raise the awareness of local villagers and the very people involved in the crime. Here are Xiao Cuo’s thoughts in his own words (translated):

  1. From the perspective of citizenship education and strengthening of the civil society, no lesson is better than the one offered by Chen Guangcheng, which is pure, simple, low-risk and sustainable. Whether legally, rationally or emotionally speaking, our opponent is in a disadvantaged position. Rogue is all they are left with. Chen has sacrificed himself for us. We should not waste the lesson offered by him.
  2. Let us not focus our attention on cases like Little Yueyue which have no sustainability. What Chen Guangcheng’s enemy hope for is victory by the passage of time. If we are distracted by other buzz and let the temperature on Chen cools down, we let our enemy’s wish comes true.
  3. Some people portray Chen with a weak image of being insulted and hurt. This is a misinterpretation. As a blind individual, he is giving the central and local governments, which have mobilized hundreds of people and millions of dollars, sleepless nights. Can we find another blind man as brave?
  4. Some people think that Chen’s situation is a dead end without solution. Wrong! Whether there is a solution depends on Chen himself. Now Chen does not want to let the government off the hook, thus creating this dead end. Chen shouts: “Open fire on me!” So brave. Those who think that Chen is being harassed and persecuted are wrong.
  5. Unless constrained by time, or physical or financial reasons, every grass mud horse should at least go there once, even if you only pass by there on a car. This is the bottom line of being a grass mud horse, if you regard yourself as one.
  6. I admire those who went there and endured violence. Their heroic behaviour started this battle. But we should put an end to violence because it is not sustainable. Not every one has the courage to endure being beaten up. This will scare away new comers, and affect the morale of the participants and audience alike. Civic actions should proceed along sustainable paths, which are low-cost, low-risk and fun.
  7. Chen’s village is now a formidable castle. We cannot hope for breakthroughs by direct confrontation. Entering Chen’s village should no longer be our aim. We need to extend the battle field to surrounding areas, and replace fists with pens. Only by raising the awareness of local villagers can we exert moral and public pressures on the thugs.

Tactically speaking, he advises netizens to adopt a low-profile, be swift in action, dress as locals and avoid going in large groups. Having a well-planned route is also important. To sustain public attention, he suggests disclosing operational results bit by bit first, before publishing a complete record. Sharing the route taken is also a good idea, so that others can plan different ones. Of course, his idea is only one possibility among many. He challenges netizens to use their imagination and implement even more brilliant plans.

Update: Xiao Cuo was subsequently questioned by the police for his action. This is extracted from the daily briefing by Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) for November 28-29:

Beijing netizen Xiao Cuo (小撮) was questioned for seven hours, from the late evening of November 28 to early the next morning, about advocacy efforts made for activist and lawyer Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚), who lives with his family under house arrest in Shandong Province. Officers from the Dongsheng Police Station interrogated Xiao after netizens, including Xiao, pasted materials about Chen around the periphery of Dongshigu Village on November 19, and just after Xiao posted information and suggestions online about a “new method” for going to see Chen. Taken away by two police officers, was told to agree to not to post further about Chen’s situation, an order he reportedly refused.

In Brief: Things Going Crazy in Linyi

First off, apologies for the lack of posts recently. As you might imagine, I’ve been busy with this and the guest posts and other features associated with that.

But, I’ve also been following the Chen Guangcheng case, which I wrote about somewhat recently here. Since then, there have been three major developments in Chen’s case: one positive, one negative, and one weird.

First, the good news: thanks to increasing pressure from netizens and “adventure tourists” (more on that in a moment), Chen’s daughter is now being allowed to attend school, although she will be trailed by guards at all times. That’s understandable, I suppose. If she were to attend school unsupervised, she might cause all sorts of trouble for the establishment. After all, she’s a full six years old now, and kindergartens have always been the fertile bed in which the seeds of revolution are sewn….OK, I’ll stop. At least the poor girl will get an education of some sort. That’s a victory, albeit a small one.

Second, the bad news: as netizens have ramped up the pressure on Chen’s case, local officials in Linyi seem to have doubled down. Chen’s village is full of thugs who beat anyone trying to enter it, and even the local police are smacking people around (and telling them the thugs who beat them and rob them are just in their imagination). More and more people have been attempting to visit Chen in what netizens are cheekily calling “Adventure tourism to Shandong,” but thusfar they’re not getting much more than bruises for their troubles. See this post for photographic evidence that some of these “adventure tourists” have received harsh beatings.

Finally, the weird: Amidst all this madness, the folks at Relativity Media (an American film company) have decided now’s a great time to film a raucous buddy comedy in Linyi. Seriously, you couldn’t make this up. Here’s Tom Lasseter of McClatchy on his blog:

Hollywood Reporter has an item that caught me by … surprise. Apparently, the U.S. film company Relativity Media is shooting part of a movie in Linyi under a partnership called Sky Land.

This is the Linyi in Shandong Province. The same place where blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng is being held under extra-judicial house arrest in a local village. He was placed under detention after being released from prison — the consequence of his trying to lead a class action lawsuit against local officials’ campaign of forced sterilization and abortions. Chen and his wife were reportedly badly beaten at the behest of local officials earlier this year.

You can read more about the film here.

In a fit of quasi-journalism, we’ve reached out to Relativity Media and a couple of the film’s stars for comment. I expect we’ll hear back roughly never, but in the event we do, I’ll certainly post whatever we get. In the interim, we have the comments thread.