For Light, For Time: Visiting Chen Guangcheng

Controversy over Relativity Media’s shoot near the site of Chen Guangcheng’s house arrest has continued to spread, with reports at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Telegraph, among others, as well as on blogs such as BoingBoing and in industry publications like Variety. ChinaHush, meanwhile, has translated writer Murong Xuecun’s account of his recent attempt to visit Chen:

Feeling heavy in the dead of the night we came to the agreement that no matter what, we would not raise our fists in retaliation. If they beat us, we’d bear the beating. If they beat us too much, we’d run. If we couldn’t run, we’d leave it up to fate. Some people accuse us of doing all this for show, but at the time, we really did prepare ourselves, prepared to bleed, prepared to suffer pain. We just wanted to verify what it takes in this country, at this time, to visit an imprisoned “free man.” But it was not until the end that we learned the outcome and truly understood the distance spanning between us and Chen Guangcheng. It was exactly like as Enchao said: The longest distance in the world was from the gate of his village to his house.

It was October 15th, 2011. It was an ordinary day. Four fat men and a woman arrived in an unfamiliar city. In the deep of the night, the woman slept. The two fat men sleeping in another room snored loudly, threatening to wake the whole city. Another fat man snored in a different room, mumbling in his sleep and occasionally grinding his teeth. The fourth fat man couldn’t sleep. He sat on the toilet and smoked a cigarette, mindlessly flipped through a book. In a village near these five people, a group of guards surrounded a door, their eyes watched a single room.

In that room sits a blind man. He has been tortured for his activism. He sits in darkness and yet he struggles to find light for the rest of us. On this tranquil night, I hoped that he was having a good dream, a dream filled with color, a dream filled with light and the memories of home.

At Global Voices Online, Andy Yee explores Chen’s house arrest as a manifestation of China’s colossal stability maintenance machinery. He cites and translates numerous arguments from Chinese commentators, including the following from Xiao Han, of the China University of Politics and Law:

In the stability maintenance system, the more sensational the situation, the better it is for executors of stability maintenance. This brings power as well as economic benefits. In ancient China, there is a strategy of keeping the mobs close in order to strengthen oneself. Generals will not destroy bandits immediately, but will keep them alive in a fight-and-release tactic in order to keep asking for resources from the top. The stability maintenance system exhibits similar characteristics. In the Chen Guangcheng case, the Linyi authority not only beats up Chen and his family, it also kidnaps and detains visitors. This not only serves as an intimidation to Chen’s supporters, but is also a way to create tension in order to legitimize its violence. This can help them gain supports and power from the top. However, as all this is too outrageous, it leads to a condemnation from the pubic and waves of fearless visits. This results in a slight improvement in Chen’s situation, but visitors are still subject to harsh treatments. From the point of view of stability maintenance, the local government has already achieved its evil aim: to exaggerate the seriousness of the situation. Although the superiors of the Linyi authority know that this is a bad consequence of the stability maintenance system and its specific implementation, they are already tied to the same vested interests and can by no means display “weakness” towards Chen.

See also Caijing magazine’s description, translated by the Dui Hua Foundation, of China’s machinery of stability preservation, via CDT.