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China: The Heroine Behind Chen Guangcheng's Escape Arrested

Blind civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng who had been under house arrest for 20 months since his release from prison on September 8, 2010 has finally escaped from Dongshigu Village in Shandong province. On the other hand, He Peirong (“Pearl”) who helped Chen escape to Beijing has been swept away by police from her home in Nanjing on Friday April 27, 2012.

Since February, 2011 Pearl He has been trying to visit Chen Guangcheng under house arrest while campaigning for his release. A few months ago I interviewed her briefly about her activist's path for a research project on Gender and Citizenship conducted by the organisation IT for Change. Below is a summary of the online interview:

Who is He Peirong?

He Peirong's profile picture at Twitter

Pearl lives in Nanjing city, Jiangsu province. She had been an English teacher until 2008 when the Wenchuan Earthquake took place. She left her job and went to Sichuan as a volunteer for earthquake relief work. A few months later, the Sichuan government started cracking down on citizen initiated disaster relief groups and a citizen investigation of bean-dreg school building constructions. A number of activists including Tan Zuoren and Huang Qi were arrested. Then Pearl decided to join an activist group to provide assistance to political prisoners and their families. Her first campaign consisted of fundraising via Twitter. Through the campaign, she was connected to a wider network of like-minded people and later decided to campaign for Chen Guangcheng.

In September 2011, upon learning that Chen's 6-year-old daughter could not attend school due to illegal house arrest, she urged other netizens to visit Chen's family in Dongshigu Village. She tried entering the village twice herself but was beaten up by local thugs. After several failed attempts, she changed her strategy to online campaigns by raising public and international awareness of Chen's condition. [Many netizens have spontaneously joined hand to campaign for Chen's freedom], one of the most well known action is the “Free Guangcheng: Dark Glasses Portrait” by Hexie Farm:

Pearl never gave up on the idea of getting Chen physically out of the village. Now Guangcheng is free and has spoken out to the world on the illegal prosecution committed by local government in Linyi county, Shandong province.

However, Pearl has been missing since April 27 shortly after the news of Guangcheng's escape spread through the Internet. Her last tweet [zh] is about the safety of Guangcheng's brother:

可有山东境内以及临近网友,请开车沿205国道,寻找可贵,提供必要的帮助,拜托大家了!我已经不能出发了,否则,一定第一个驾车前去。

@pearlher: Any friends who are nearby Shandong? Please drive along 205 highway and look for Kegui [Chen Guangcheng's brother]. Give assistance to him, please help out. I can't leave my place anymore or else I would have driven there myself.

Campaigning for Pearl's release

Upon the confirmation of Pearl's arrest by China Aid, Chinese tweets appeared campaigning for her release. Poon Siu To, a radio host in Hong Kong urged [zh]:

今天起,請大家記住這位南京女俠,網名「珍珠」的何培蓉!她犧牲為了拯救陳光誠,赴湯蹈火。壯哉!高貴的勇士! 還我珍珠!還我美麗的珍珠!(拜托,轉發和吶喊吧!)

From today onward, please remember this Nanjing heroine, her name is “Pearl”, He Peirong. She sacrificed herself to save Chen Guangcheng. She is such a courageous and noble fighter. Return Pearl to us, return our beautiful Pearl! (Please spread this).

Zeng Jinyan, whose husband Hu Jia has met with Chen Guangcheng upon his escape also pleaded [zh]:

要求:1.释放何培蓉@pearlher;2.释放陈光诚的妻女母亲兄长家人及村民;3.确保陈光诚全家今后的自由;4.停止骚扰迫害维权人士及家属;5.追责每一位具体参与迫害行凶的官员和社会闲杂人等

Demand: 1. The release of He Peirong @pearlher; 2. The release of Chen Guangcheng's wife, daughter, mother, brother's family and villagers; 3. Make sure that Chen Guangcheng's family can be free in the future; 4. Stop harassing and prosecuting rights defenders and their family members; 5. Officials and thugs who have participated in illegal prosecution should be put on trial.

The significance of Chen's prison break

Prominent video activist, Prof Ai Xiaoming sums up [zh] in his blog the significance of Chen and his supporters’ prison break action:

从冲破鬼门关接走陈光诚,简直堪比一部大型劫狱片。而被破解的禁锢,更在于人们的心狱。为什么那么多罪恶可以大行其道,除了体制作恶,还有一个更简单的原因,那就是人们的沉默。声援陈光诚的行动打破了沉默,而救援的成功则显示了行动的可能。它标志着,勇气是在追求自由的行动淬炼的;智慧、筹谋和协力团队,也是在挑战恐惧的过程中赢得的。陈光诚能有今天,证实了珍珠、玉闪等英侠非凡的勇气和战斗力;而所有那些前往东师古找打的公民,也都起到破除恐惧的表率作用。那些在推特上、微博上呼吁的网民、那些自戴墨镜者和展示车贴的朋友,大家都曾经属于沉默的大多数;而一旦在公益的目标下集结起来,就能相互给力。这表明,暴力尽管强悍,它对精神的控制却很有限;正义常遭挫败,它的能量却是源源不绝。正如珍珠在google+上的留言:每个人都发出声音,这才是最重要的。

Breaking through the door of hell and taking Chen Guangcheng away is a prison break thriller. The prison house is not only a physical place but in people's heart. How can evil manifest itself so openly? The problem is not only in the system but in people's silence. The Free Chen Guangcheng's campaign has broken such silence. The successful escape implies the power of such action. The courage comes from our practice of freedom; the wisdom, collective effort and planning are the fruit of a series of process that overcomes our fear. Chen's freedom is a result of Pearl and Yushan's courage and persistence. The citizens who visited Dongshigu village and were beaten up by local thugs are in the frontline of the fight against fear and terror. For those who have made their pledge on Twitter or exhibited their sun-glasses images were once the silent majority, but eventually they have joined together in support of each others to defend goodness. Violent oppression cannot extend its power towards people's spirit. Although justice has always been the target for crackdowns, its has endless power. Like Pearl has said on Google Plus: The most significant act is for people to speak out.

12 comments

  • Ngawang

    Pearl can give freedom to the the whole citizen of China by throwing away the dirty system of Red Chinese Communist Party and the will replace with the democratic System which will like the people of the world.. God Bless to Pearl. Don’t loss your heart so that you will be the winner from RED CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY..
    I AM ALWAYS WITH YOU AND MY PRAYER ARE WITH YOU( PEARL )..

  • [...] After scaling a wall surrounding the house, he reportedly hid in the countryside until an activist, He Peirong, picked him up and drove him 300 miles to Beijing. Along the way he met recently imprisoned human [...]

  • C

    Thanks for the report.
    However, there is a mistake in this report. The Dark Glasses. Portrait project has nothing to do with Pearl. It was launched by a Chinese cartoonist 疯蟹@hexiefarm. The project website is ichenguangcheng.blogspot.com

  • ian

    Look after him U.S and I hope Pearl is okay, someone find her,

    FIGHT COMMUNISM ALWAYS!

    -from the UK.

  • If you would like to use or forward photos and other content of Dark Glasses.Portrait, please cite the source with “Dark Glasses. Portrait”, or “墨镜肖像”,and link it back to this website. http://ichenguangcheng.blogspot.com/

    Thanks

  • I’m the campaigner of the Dark Glasses.Portrait. The campaign has nothing to do with He Peirong. Please check and correct your report. If nothing unclear, please contact me by email.

    Thanks

  • Regretfully, the mistake in this report has not changed after my comments. I demand that the mistake be corrected immediately and the video be deleted; otherwise it will cause confusion among the readers as well as participants to the project Dark Glasses.Portrait. Thanks.

  • [...] O protesto agora é pel liberdade de He Peroing, a heroína por trás da fuga de Chem Guangcheng [...]

  • Sorry I missed the comment. Post modified.

  • [...] Every escape story / Hollywood blockbuster has to have a heroine. “On the other hand, Pearl, He Peirong, who helped Chen to escape has been taken away by police from her home in Nanjing on Friday April 27 2012. // Since February 2011, Pearl He has been trying to visit Chen Guangcheng and campaigning for his release.” [Global Voices Online] [...]

  • [...] y una herida en un pie.En la carretera puso la batería al móvil y llamó a He Peirong, una activista con la que había quedado. Ella llegó desde el sur, Nanjing, donde vive, y le llevó a Pekín, a [...]

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