Breaking the Blockage: Face to Face with Chen Guangcheng

Zhai Minglei, former reporter for Southern Weekend and founder of Yi Bao “the One-Man Newspaper,” reports on a video captured by blind civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng while under heavy-handed confinement in his home. After a four-year prison term for speaking with foreign media about human rights abuses, Chen returned in September 2010 to unorthodox house arrest in his Shandong home. Since the release of this video depicting his life under duress, China Aid reports that Chen has been severely beaten. Read Zhai’s report in Chinese here. [Translated by Don Weinland]

What a miracle.

When blind civil-rights activist Chen Guangcheng completed his prison term September 9, 2010, he returned home to more than 100 thugs surrounding his house. The four entrances to his village had been sealed off. A mobile phone signal-deflector had been set up in the village. There were so many thugs they crowded the village and slept in Chen’s doorway at night. They put a lock on his door to keep him from escaping in the dark. Under such surveillance, there was no chance of an outsider meeting or exchanging information with Chen. After Sept. 13, 2010, the outside world knew nothing of Chen’s circumstances.

Not long ago, citizen heroes such as Chen Yunfei and Zhen Zhu stormed the village only to be beaten back by the sentries. Zhen Zhu’s car was smashed. Glass and blood littered the ground in all directions. The visit attempt had failed.

From Dong Shigu Village to Wuyun Village, the darkness of injustice fomented.

But no one expected Chen to break through the blockage.

It’s still unclear by what means Chen covertly recorded 50 minutes of footage and delivered it to the outside. This feat proves without a doubt that the people can reach free ground via technology and the Internet. A man under tight security in a small room can deliver his message to the masses. During this 50-minute video, Chen, soaked in his own vigor, proved that no straightened circumstance can obstruct a courageous heart if the mind is free.

A glorious pen wrote this case into the annals of civil history.

This is the first time Yi Bao has posted a video.

I think every kind of offence against human rights described by Chen Guangcheng, as well as the siege on his home, makes for a huge contrast of realities for us city dwellers. But it’s by no means a contradiction. Qian Mu said that in a time of peace, the diligent Chinese people could build China into a prosperous country in 40 years. But after prosperity, whether China can guarantee human rights, whether the gains of the country aren’t earned off the backs of the people, whether fascism can be avoided – only this is the key question for China’s development. Chen’s 50-minute video proves that we are at that critical moment. Herein lies the reason behind Chen’s call to “save China.”

It’s hard to imagine how Chen risked daily peril to capture this video he delivered to citizens online. And how was it smuggled out via a chain in mortal jeopardy at every link? Not even food could be delivered to Chen under those harsh conditions. Is this not a miracle?

During the video, we see Chen quiver with passion and determination as he says: Fight them to the end.

Could it be that the democratic movement in China is lead by a blind man?

Could it be that from under such vile public rule that we still cannot regain our consciousness?

Yi Bao’s publication of this video also proves that between magnificent lies and fragility, Yi Bao chooses the truth. Between the empty-handed Chen Guangcheng and the mighty Linyi Government, Yi Bao stands with Chen. Between high walls and fragile eggs, Yi Bao will always take the egg.

While watching this video there are two scenes that tear my eyes. In one, Chen raises a shriveled bouquet of flowers. Originally, they were fresh flowers picked by lawyer Teng Biao and give to his daughter during trial. Chen kept them by his side for four long years of prison. Chen waves the dry, yellow flowers in the video, demonstrating his sincerity. Any support to Chen is a witness to good conscience. He will keep those flowers forever.

The second is Chen’s wife, Yuan Weijing, in front of the lens. She says softly, if something happens after the video is distributed, may our friends look after our two children. I understand. With the release of this wake-up call to the Chinese people, the couple prepared for the worst.

Like Qian Yunhui, Chen nearly suffered a bizarre car accident. The murder’s motorcycle spend toward Chen that night. Who would have thought he could have found his conscience just then. At the last moment, the murderer hit the brakes and quietly drove away.

Qian Yunhui used his watch to capture a short video. Chen used his effort to film 50 minutes of proof. Qian Yunhui died on the road in a “bizarre accident” for the benefit of the villagers (It’s not known whether it was an assassination or a traffic accident. The authorities called it an accident but suspicion of assassination is rife among villagers. Yet there’s not enough evidence). Just the same, Chen has resisted for the human rights of the villagers. He released a video that could bring only harm to himself. The video has caused people to worry and feel conflicted. But Chen did it courageously.

Today, I saw the video had been released on Pastor Fu Xiqiu’s website (China Aid).

Not long after Qian Yunhui released the video showing how the property rights of villagers had been exploited by officials, he was killed. And with the release of Chen Guangcheng’s video, he has also slipped into a world of danger.

To keep something from happening to Chen’s family, I think the largest possible group of people paying attention to and spreading this video – the voice of justice – is the best way of protecting him. Posting this video on your blog could reduce a degree of the danger Chen is in. Let the truth spread far and wide.