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At the gates of Dongshigu
It was the morning of 16 October. Our car ran for 10 minutes and arrived at an old aqueduct, a remnant of Mao's era. We'd driven to Dongshigu's village gate but then turned around after seeing a couple of burly guards at the entrance.|
Instead we got off a kilometre away from Dongshigu. Nuola stayed to set up our base. It was eight in the morning. Just as we were leaving a young man, medium height, skinny, ran towards us with a green coat in his hands. He looked like he'd just finished his night shift. Seeing us, he reached for his phone and made a call. We pretended not to see, and walked towards Dongshigu.
At the gate of Dongshigu is a single road. Flanking the road are two ordinary houses. There were people both inside and outside those houses. I walked towards one of them when a short man wearing a grey-green jacket blocked my way. "What are you doing?" he asked.
"Is this place Dongshigu village?" I asked, smiling.
Ignoring my question, he repeated his: "What are you doing?"
"We're here to see a man called Chen Guangcheng. May I ask if he lives here?"
Taken aback by my directness, he paused. Then covertly he leaned in towards me to say, "Well, there have been some robberies recently here in the village. You know, chickens, cows. So I can't let you in."
I chuckled: "Oh we're not here to steal anything. Don't worry. We're just here to see Chen Guangcheng. We'll leave immediately afterwards."
His expression turned stern. A few others came out of the house, among them a middle aged man wearing a black velvet jacket. The man had a mild face but his words were brusque: "It's harvest season. All the men are gone. We're afraid of losing things so you can't come in."
"We're not here to steal!" exclaimed Enchao, "Don't worry!"
Xiaoshan started talking legalities: "Who knows who you guys are? Look, come over here, come, come. I'll introduce you. I'm a writer, called Murong Xuechun. This here is Wang Xiaoshan, newspaper columnist; this is Zhang Enchao, digital web director; this is Hu Zhongqiang…"
Velvet Jacket started to lose his patience. "I don't give a ---- who you people are. I said you can't come in didn't I? That means you can't come in!"
The scene turned stiff and airless. I took a wad of cash from my pocket, probably around 2000 RMB. "Afraid we're going to steal from you? Look, I'll just put this money here with you, as collateral."
"Or you can come with us if you don't trust us. When we come out you can inspect us," said Enchao.
Velvet Jacket shook his head vigorously. "Put your money away! I don't want your money! What would I do with your money?"
"How about we give you our IDs. That would give you a piece of mind, right?" said Enchao They stopped talking. None of them spoke. I decided to start walking again. Two steps in, Green Jacket grabbed me. "Stop! Stop ealking!"
After that they gave us another two or three minutes of silent treatment. No matter what we said, no one replied. Zhongqiang took out a pack of Tarzans and went around offering each guard a cigarette. None of the guards responded.