So the mood in the village was tense on Thursday as Chen was released and returned home. Dozens of plainclothes police officers, who arrived the day before, stood watch outside his house and at the entrances to the village, residents said. Chen’s wife, who had talked to foreign reporters Wednesday night, suddenly could no longer be reached. The family’s telephone and cellphone service had been cut, relatives explained.
“The plainclothes police brought him early this morning at 6 o’clock. Everyone saw it,” said one of Chen’s neighbors, who did not want her name used for fear of reprisals from the police camping out in the village.
Villagers said they are alternately thankful for Chen’s work and fearful of being associated with him. Reporters from the Associated Press who tried to enter the village Thursday said men in plainclothes came running, scuffled with the reporters and pursued them at high speed as they left the area.