Chen Guangcheng, the blind, self-taught lawyer who has been under house arrest since September 2010, has attracted many “adventure tourists” who attempt to visit him. Over the past few months, these visitors have never made it into Chen’s village. Inevitably, the police rough them up and send them on their way, with detention sometimes thrown in between. Christian Bale made a notable trip in December with the help of CNN reporters, but the vast majority of “tourists” are Chinese citizens. Below is a CDT original translation of Shang Xueshan’s “visit” last month, from the Chinese Human Rights Defenders blog. (Original text) (Translation by Deng Bolun)
Liu Ping: This is based on a conversation with Shang Xueshan (online name “Unbearable Rabble-Rouser”). I don’t want to use any literary glossing, but only to directly record his original words. I only added titles. The content comes straight from the mouth of this simple, relatively uncultured, lower-class average Joe. I believe only the simplest people are the most vivid, as well as the most truthful. Shang Xueshan, an everyday person from China’s lower class, a Chinese citizen, has for Guangcheng made six trips to Linyi, worn the black hood, sat in an iron cage, been beaten up, and been detained. He said, “If [only] there should come a day when we are ready to die and can tell our children’s children that when we were young in 2011, we once did a little something for a fat, blind man, and we did it without the intention of changing much, but only because we wanted inner peace and to prove that in a land rife with injustice, the blossom of morality is ever opening in our hearts.” Yes, no matter how dark the skies, the flowering of justice is within us. To him, I wold like to express my deepest respect! Below is Shang Xueshan’s recounting of events.
1. On the Road
On December 2 at 10 p.m., @Haitao1975, @1.3BillionCitizensThe18th, @ZhaoMei1969 (original name ZhaoMeiABC) and I got together in Jinan. After finding a place to stay, we lost contact with Xue Zhen. The four of us discussed the matter and made a move on our own. In order to cover our tracks, we hadn’t disclosed the news with any of our online friends beforehand!
Early on December 3, Haitao went out and bought some breakfast. We went to make scrolls and leaflets (just to give an objective introduction to the blind man Guangcheng’s situation; the leaflets were in no way breaking national law). They were ready a little after noon. Without time to eat lunch, we checked out of our rooms and went to Jinan’s Spring City Square and the Baotu Spring. As we hung the scrolls, many people remarked, “Oh, so it was something about Chen Guangcheng.” It seems that there are quite a few people who know after all!
On the road it was all stop-and-go as we posted the leaflets about Guangcheng. Perhaps within a few hours or the next day, the leaflets would be swept away like trash. But it was still better than nothing. We bought some dumplings on the road and sped along toward Linyi. On the freeway, Brother Zhao drove at 60 km/h. We kept nagging him until he finally hit 80 km/h. Make no mistake, this was only because Brother Zhao drives safe and steady!
We kept changing our route while we drove. Brother Zhao suggested the Shandong Highway and everyone agreed. We sang and laughed all the way. We were in the best of moods! At the turnoff to Laiwu, we figured we didn’t have enough time [to get to Linyi] and might as well go into town. We stopped for a bit and took pictures in three spots, including the Laiwu City government square!
At dusk we arrived at Tai’an. Brother Zhao suggested we climb Mount Tai. Everyone agreed. It was nearly 5 p.m. when we got to the gate. I said, “We’ll climb to the top at night with our scrolls and welcome the sunrise for Guangcheng. We’ll prove to the sun and the moon, to the mountains and rivers, that there is an abomination on the earth on which we live. We’ll make the Eastern Mountain, emperor of the Five Sacred Mountains, pity the misfortune of the common people!” (An estimated five-hour climb.) 1.3 Billion was frustrated and firmly refused. I said I really couldn’t handle the climb and we should take the gondola. We asked and found out the gondola was being repaired. It wasn’t running! We would all be frustrated together! We thought about it. With only four people we couldn’t stand to lose one. We had no other choice and got some hot pot for dinner. It really heated us up! (I don’t like hot pot but I can’t influence the feelings of the three others. The three brothers still have no idea). After dinner we lodged in a guest house next door. 1.3 Billion and I in shared a room. Little Brother fluttered his fingers across the keyboard, then lay down. He snored so loud he could shake the heavens! Poor me.
On December 4, Brother Zhao woke everyone up early. We dashed toward the Tai’an city square, and then toward Qufu. When we arrived we started our performance art in Confucius’ Forest and Confucius’ Temple. There was a need to let our ancestors see the plight of the blind man Guangcheng. The Benevolent loves his people. The Benevolent has no enemies. I believe that if the spirits of our great ancestors were around, they would see how unworthy their descendants were, how they had completely buried all goodness! There were many tourists who took pictures and videos while we were there. Many people knew Chen Guangcheng.
2. Danger in the Square
On the road we all turned our phones off. We arrived in Linyi after twelve o’clock and took photos at the long-distance bus station and Library Square as souvenirs! On our way to People’s Square, we were informed that a group of more than twenty visitors from Beijing had been detained! The four of us discussed the matter and decided not to change our route. Now we could already foresee the outcome, but each of the four brothers would carry forward as before. We would not succumb! I was gratified!
We reached the square and I went first to see what the situation was like. Nothing strange caught my eye. Everyone began unrolling the scrolls. We took some photos. It was then I discovered something was amiss. I yelled “Run!” and grabbed the scrolls. Three plain-clothed officers were coming at us from behind. Facing these young Pandaren I was detained. They brought me directly to some out-of-the-way spot. It was then I knew the others hadn’t been caught because I was constantly surrounded by more than ten of the undercover police. I shouted furiously at them, “Who are all of you? Show my your badges!” The two holding me immediately pressed down on my chest saying, “Shit! Don’t lose your temper!” A bit later a police car arrived and took me to Yinqueshan Police Station!
The officer sitting behind the desk told me a few times in a loud, accusatory voice that I was not permitted to speak. And he happened to be watching a movie on a computer! I said, “So my talking is disrupting your movie-watching, right?” At the point of rage he said, “Which of your two eyes can see me watching a movie?” I returned, “You would dare claim you weren’t just watching movie. Are all of the People’s Police like you?” His face and ears burned red. “If you’ve got a problem, sue me!”
3. Meeting the “Blind Date Group” at the Police Station
It was about 2 p.m. on December 4 that I was taken to Linyi, Lanshan District’s Yinqueshan Police Station. It was there I met five Beijingers who were part of a “blind date group” (after talking with them, I learned that more than twenty of them had been detained and were split up). While talking, Sister Liu Ping was mentioned. I said, “She is really a good person. I’ve met her a few times.” Later, it was these people who got the news out about me being detained in the police station!
While there, the people at the station opened the scrolls and took photos. A few from the blind date group caught a glimpse of me and secretly gave me a thumbs up. I could only smile bitterly! During another simple interrogation, I argued with the police, asking, “Which national law have I broken that would allow you to bring me here?” They said, “What were you doing putting scrolls in the square?” I answered, “This was ‘performance art.'” They said, “Performance art my ass! You were just looking for trouble. Fuck, such simple business, just looking for trouble.” I was speechless. We quarreled several times! They looked over their shoulders and mentioned him [Chen Guangcheng] but wouldn’t talk about him directly with me! The five blind daters had all completed a written statement! I was also taken into the interrogation room to write one.
During one of these loud arguments at the Yinqueshan Police Station, a few officers emerged from an inner room. One came beside me as I was sitting cross-legged. He kicked the foot that was sticking up and screamed, “Sit up straight!” Vexed, I said, “Excuse me, what counts as sitting straight? perfect posture?” He said, “Someone like you! What a goddamn headache!”
4. The United Nations Gives Me a Call
When it was almost five o’clock, the five blind daters were taken to the train station, leaving me alone. My belt and coat were removed, and two hands thrust me into an iron cage! Protesting was useless!
About three hours later, my phone alarm went off. It started ringing incessantly! I felt it must be my Internet friends calling one after the other. I could only hear an officer ask, “Which paper are you a reporter for? I don’t know. I can’t hear you, hold on.” The police chief was there, too (surnamed Wang). The officer told the chief, “They’re speaking English.” Soon afterwards the chief told me jokingly, “The United Nations is calling you!” I couldn’t help but chuckle. Finally the chief reached the end of his patience and told the officer, “Turn the phone off!” Then it was quiet!
At dusk on December 5, I suddenly heard the voice of 1.3 Billion outside. I was right, it was him. My brother had come to the station to find me! I broke into a sweat! All I heard him say was, “I lost my ID card and want to report it.” At first I thought, this guy can sure talk nonsense! Later I found out that it was true. I just screamed from inside the station, “I need to go to the toilet. How long will you hold me here!” The goal was to let them know I was here!
Three hours later I was called out. They pulled out a penalization notice. I saw what was written on the front: Incitement, assembly, illegal gathering. Administrative detention for fifteen days. They wanted my signature but I wouldn’t give it, saying, “The crimes you’ve charged me with don’t match my actions. I won’t sign.” The police said, “Whether you sign or not, we’re still going to lock you up!” The chief went on, “This is a light sentence. Next time we’ll give you ‘labor-education.’ We’ll dig you a hole and ‘bury‘ you!” And it was like this that I was locked up in the Lanshan Detention Center!
On the night of December 6 I received a deposit notice. Haitao had deposited $500 for me! I was incredibly happy! A true brother who would never abandon me! On the night of December 7, the police called me but said nothing after I came out. I only heard one say, “No need.”
5. Another Meeting in Jail
They made me take a pillow and follow them. Lightheaded, I returned to the cell. At Cell 22 I suddenly saw Big Brother @Zhaowei1969 inside. I handed him the pillow and returned to Cell 21. At the gate he said, “The two others were detained as well.” Wow! Four brothers all in here together! @Haitao1975 was in Cell 17, @1.3BillionCitizensThe18th was in Cell 15!
And it was like this for the four brothers in Lanshan District Detention Center, eating two buns a day. We were miserable together all the way until December 15, when I was suddenly released early. We could only look at each other when we were eating. We could say no more than a few words! At first it ate with everyone in detention. Later we four were each made to eat alone!
6. Closing Words
This trip was a bit long, causing worry and concern among many Internet friends. In order to help out, every Internet friend donated some long-distance phone call money, driving the police station crazy! It turned the detention center into a postcard distribution center. It was a shame I didn’t see a single card! But I was very moved! Here I’d like to say thanks. And thanks to my brothers. It’s you who would never abandon me. You would follow even if it pained you. What good brothers!
This Shandong trip didn’t completely run its course. What a pity! Guangcheng still has no freedom. I hope “The journey in the Divine Land to see him” may be finished by our Internet friends!