Watchers gone, but fear lingers in Chen’s hometown

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On the road outside Chen’s home, three women — taking a rest from field work — told reporters they are happier now that the security guards are gone. But they quicky dispersed when four local officials showed up and asked reporters to leave so as not to distract farmers during harvesting season.

“This village is very peaceful. Nothing happens here,” one of the officials said. “It needs a quiet environment to develop its economy.”

Two of them said they were from the village and two from a Yinan County team in charge of fostering economic development in Dongshigu. All refused to give their names.

Chen’s family has said the enforcers came mostly from neighboring communities, including Xishigu and Xiaobu, where Chen says government official Gao Xinjian was a ringleader in recruiting the surveillance team.

“They sold out their conscience for money,” Chen Guangfu said. “It was a pretty good gig: 100 yuan per day, and three free meals. Villagers curse their ancestors, but they did not care.”

The dozen or so residents of Xishigu interviewed by the AP all denied that their fellow villagers worked to guard Chen Guangcheng.

In Xiaobu, the streets were largely deserted, but a skinny, bespectacled man who ran a convenient store and who refused to give his name referred vaguely to residents who worked as guards.

“They used to be farmers, and now of course they went back to farming,” he said. “They simply want to make some money.”

Soon, a middle-aged man in a dark, striped shirt walked up and asked reporters to leave. He declined to give his name or identity. Later, the officials who had confronted reporters in Dongshigu arrived in a silver sedan. They threatened to confiscate the reporters’ car and then followed them out of town.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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