As the scheduled date for the trial of blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng approaches, Gao Zhisheng and other human rights advocates make their way to Yinan County, Shandong Province, China, despite interference by authorities. It is estimated that 30 to 40 people like Gao will try to attend the hearing on July 20.
About 11 p.m. on July 17, human rights activist Zhao Xin, who arrived in Linyi City, Shandong Province, told a reporter that from the 16th to the 19th, many people concerned about Chen's case and who believed in non-violent protests, would arrive in Linyi from various parts of the country. “More people would come, but as of now, we know a dozen people from Beijing and some other places were blocked by local authorities. Beijing police are now looking for Li Hai and me. The minute I started to use my new mobile phone, I received short messages threatening to kill me and my whole family.”
Zhao Xin also disclosed that on July 18, Xu Zhiyong Ph.D., who was the first to arrive in Linyi and the first attorney to collect evidence for Chen's case, was again beaten up by a dozen thugs when he tried to enter Dongshigu village to conduct investigations.
On the afternoon of July 18, Beijing attorney Gao Zhisheng, who has been under surveillance by police for 234 days, was invited to have lunch with friends. As soon as Gao left home, he and three other friends, Ma Wendu, Liu Jinsheng and Li Jinping, drove to Linyi. On their way, as many as 13 cars (five from Beijing, four from Tianjin, four from Shandong) followed them. When they arrived at the hotel in Taian City, Shandong Province, a large group of plainclothes police followed them to the hotel lobby and summoned the hotel proprietor outside for questioning. When interviewed by the reporter, the four of them had already settled down in the hotel.
Attorney Gao told the journalist, “I am the safest one amongst us. Who would have the privilege of being protected by 40 to 50 people at your doorstep 24 hours a day?
Beijing human rights activist Hu Jia also planned to go to Yinan on July 18, but he was restrained at home by Tongzhou National Security Brigade and threatened by police. They told him, “If you walk out of the door, you will be in a very bad situation.” Hu nearly fought with the police in protest. Hu said in an interview that he had made all preparations to attend this trial. Even if he is unable to be in the court room, he would still provide support from outside.
According to human rights activists who arrived in Linyi, besides attorneys, many human rights advocates, scholars and Christian followers have also come to Linyi to support Chen. Professor Sun Wenguang, who once taught Li Qun, Governor of Linyi City, also arrived in Yinan to offer his support.
Chen's defending attorneys Li Jinsong, Li Subin, Zhang Lihui, etc. will arrive on July 19.
During the interview, Gao Zhisheng commented that: “People in Shandong told us a local proverb 'humiliating the deaf and beating the blind are the most despicable actions' and this is exactly what the Chinese communist regime is doing now. They are even fearful of what a blind man sees. They [must have] thought besieges and house arrests were not secure [enough], so they want to put him in jail.”
Gao said, “Protest is the only recourse Chinese citizens have presently. However, because many Chinese are unwilling to use this method, the regime has become unscrupulous and acts wantonly. Chinese people should not count on others. Everyone is an indispensable power in deterring the tyranny.”