June 9 - Guards have gone from the village where Chinese activist Chen Guangchen was detained but his family say residents still live in fear. Paul Chapman reports.
The village where Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng lived under house arrest seems a quieter place these days. Chen is now studying in the U.S. after his dramatic escape. The surveillance cameras outside the home of his 78-year-old mother are gone. So are the guards who sat outside, and those who followed her to the market daily. The guard posts where Chen's family says his supporters were beaten up lie in ruins. But life in Dongshigu village is far from normal. Chen's brother says the guards have been replaced by fear. SOUNDBITE: CHEN'S BROTHER, CHEN GUANGFU, SAYING (Mandarin): "It'll take a long time for the shadow cast by this case to disappear because the villagers are scared to their bones. They clearly told the villagers repeatedly that Guangcheng was a traitor so whoever was helping him would also be seen as a traitor." Chen's old room is one of the few things that's unchanged. Residents spoken to by Reuters were unwilling to talk about Chen Guangcheng's case. But his mother says his escape probably saved his life. SOUNDBITE: CHEN'S MOTHER, 78-YEAR-OLD WANG JINXIANG, SAYING (Mandarin): "If he hadn't escaped he would have died from the persecution. He would have died from all that persecution. He couldn't walk and his body wasn't well either." Chinese authorities are now holding Chen's nephew Kegui whom they accuse of attempted murder. Kegui's father says he acted in self-defence when local officials barged into their home after Chen's escape was discovered. SOUNDBITE: CHEN'S BROTHER, CHEN GUANGFU, SAYING (Mandarin): "I feel they're just using Kegui as a pawn to restrict Guangcheng. In their words they want Guangcheng to be more low-profile and that, in a way, would help Kegui's case. In that respect it's no longer a criminal but a political case." An instruction to Reuters reporters to leave the village, and their pursuit from the area by men in a car is, perhaps, an indication of the shadow that still hangs over Dongshigu. Paul Chapman, Reuters