The Times’ Barbara Demick recently reported on the surreal “virtual lockdown” of the Chinese village from which blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng escaped. Weeks after Chen fled, his village and nearby ones were ringed by anywhere from a few dozen to more than 100 security personnel:
If anything, Chen's escape has only served to infuriate the Communist Party cadres who ordered the security cordon in the first place.
"After little blind guy escaped, they got frightened," said 85-year-old Shao Shijiang, using a popular nickname for Chen. On Thursday, he pointed out to reporters the security personnel hiding in the fields in his village, Xishigu, which is on the other side of a small, muddy river from Dongshigu.
"There are men over there. In the trees too. Next to the road," he said gesturing toward a pedestrian bridge over the river. "Little blind guy has caused us lots of trouble."
Since our article ran last week, the Associated Press reports that the security grip on the village has been loosened. Guards and their posts around the village have disappeared:
So thorough was the cleanup this past weekend that locals said the surveillance cameras trained on Chen's home had been removed and the high voltage street lamps dimmed. Two adjoining huts built at the village's entrance to house the guards -- and where outsiders trying to visit Chen had been beaten -- had been torn down. Even the trash they piled up had been taken away.
"It was as if the whole thing evaporated," said Chen's older brother, Chen Guangfu, who lives in the village with several others in the Chen family. "I feel liberated."
But the cleanup may also have a dark side. The brother of Chen Guangcheng -- the same one who told the Associated Press he felt liberated -- claims local officials are trying to destroy evidence ahead of a possible investigation into abuses there, Reuters reported Friday:
"Not a shred of evidence is left after they've destroyed everything at the scene. Everything has been moved," Chen Guangfu said.
"...For the past two years, countless netizens (Internet supporters of Chen) endured violent beatings in these [guard] houses."
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Chen Guangfu, brother of blind activist Chen Guangcheng, shows an escape route of Chen Guangcheng -- who was under house arrest -- at the Dongshigu village in Shandong province, China on Friday. Credit: Andy Wong / Associated Press