Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The most dangerous man in China...

... is apparently blind activist and barefoot lawyer Chen Guangcheng, judging from the extraordinary level of security thrown up around his home to prevent him from having any communications with the outside world. None of this has any known legal justification, by the way. Here's a report from China Human Rights Defenders (Chinese here). Think of how much all this must cost!

Attempts to visit the lawyer and activist Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚) in Shandong Province have often been thwarted by the constant, stifling presence of guards blockading Dongshigu Village, where Chen lives under illegal house arrest (see reports below). The intensive operation is fortified by surveillance cameras and monitoring points set up at four village entrances and around Chen’s home. As groups of Chinese activists continue their “Operation Free Chen Guangcheng” by making repeated visits to Dongshigu Village, CHRD has released an aerial photo that charts the locations of village entrances and monitoring posts while describing these in detail.

The village’s widest concrete road—at three meters across—runs along its eastern edge and intersects China National Highway 205, which connects the provinces of Hebei and Guangdong. A small bridge lies in the middle of this road, and after crossing the bridge and turning right, Chen’s home is the first one on the north side, and is surrounded at all times by seven or eight guards.

The highway entrance near Chen’s home is guarded by 20 individuals who work in two shifts, scrutinizing each vehicle and person entering the village. At another location are two small structures that function as the guards’ work stations, with a pair of vehicles parked nearby. Thugs use one of them in case they need to chase after visitors, and the other is stationed next to a small bridge. Seven to eight individuals, also working in two shifts, man these vehicles.

Another concrete road entrance faces a neighboring village, Yazi Village, to the southeast of Dongshigu, and is located about 600 meters down the highway. A monitoring point in this area is set up about 100 meters after crossing a bridge, and guards—close to 20 people divided into two groups—reportedly stay hidden behind a pile of firewood and are able to see anyone crossing over the bridge, which leads to a trail into Dongshigu. On one side of the trail is a row of bungalows where tobacco is grown, and guards keep three vicious dogs on the other side.

A third entrance—a drainage area beneath a highway—lies along the village’s southwest edge, and is a path so narrow and rugged that it can only be undertaken on foot. There are six or seven guards stationed at this entrance, which is also equipped with a monitoring camera. Northwest of the village, there is a fourth passage off a small bridge to neighboring Xishigu Village. There are two monitoring points, one at the entrance of Xishigu Village and another after crossing a bridge and turning to the left, with close 20 guards.

In sum, there are two surveillance points in front and behind Chen’s home, and six other points set up at various locations on the four narrow roads that enter Dongshigu Village. There are a total of six surveillance cameras in the village. Two mobile phone jammers are set up at the homes of Chen’s neighbors to the west and east.

Reportedly, almost 100 hired thugs keep Chen under surveillance, and all are recruited from outside the village. They are divided into two large squads and 12 smaller groups, and maintain radio communication with each other while working around the clock. And like many extensive operations, monitoring Chen and the entire village is also wealth-generating. Given two daily meals, each person pockets 100 RMB a day—far more lucrative pay than the average villager (even the village party secretary earns just 3,000 RMB in salary per year). The guards are led by Gao Xingjian (高兴见), who comes from a nearby village. Gao was appointed as head of the guards after fighting off past visitors on many occasions, and has supposedly amassed a good deal of wealth from filling that role.

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