By Ma Latang
Blind dissident Chen Guangcheng yesterday filled out passport application forms in hospital, moving himself and his family one step closer towards flying out to the United States. But the woman widely recognised as the one who drove him to Beijing, He Peirong, Pearl, is now facing her own battle as fellow activists accuse her of playing the heroine to hog media limelight.
He Peirong has been generally regarded as the one who first received the call from Chen Guangcheng and drove him all the way to Beijing. The Associated Press describes his miraculous escape as follows:
He walked for hours, trying to put as much distance between himself and his heavily guarded home as possible before daring to slip a battery into his mobile phone and call He Peirong, a Nanjing-based English teacher-turned-activist who had promised to help. She was waiting with a car.
In an interview with iSunAffairs, a Hong-Kong based online magazine, Pearl describes what happened on April 21. In her own words:
At 11:06, April 21, I received an email saying, “The bird is now out of the cage. What should we do?” I was on the subway to see Guo Yushan, and was not aware of the situation. Guo Yushan told me about that when I met him. Only then did I see the mail and then I replied, “I know it. In Beijing now.” Then I drove to pick him up on the noon of April, 22 and found him by the midnight. (21號中午11點06分，我收到郵件：「鳥兒已經出籠，怎麼辦？」我那時候在去見郭玉閃的地鐵上，之前完全不知道，見面的時候他告訴了我這個消息。事後我才見了郵件，於是就回了一條：「知道了，我在北京。」。然後22號中午開車去山東接他，凌晨找到的他。)
Her account was refuted by fellow activist @tufuwugan:
— 超级低俗屠夫 (@tufuwugan) May 11, 2012
Just a little bit of background. Before his escape, Chen Guangcheng made himself a mobile phone battery charger. The phone had been hidden long before, and the first person he telephoned was Guo Yushan. Pearl was with Guo at that time and happened to know the news, so she requested to be the driver and head there together with Guo. Many rumors were not cleared and the real hero was buried. Such public incidents should be presented with the 100% truth. No compromise.
This condemnation is also echoed by Wen Yunchao, also known on the internet as Beifeng:
— 北风（温云超） (@wenyunchao) May 17, 2012
She said she received the call, but the truth is that it was Guo Yushan who was notified. It could mislead others and made people think that she was the one who initiated the rescue operation. If Guo Yushan answered the phone, whoever went to pick Chen didn’t make any difference, but Pearl said she answered the phone, then things are completely different.
In an interview with the Apple Daily while Pearl was detained by authorities, Guo Yushan had said, “I planned everything alone. Even if Pearl did anything, she was just implementing my arrangements. I received news of Chen Guangcheng’s escape very soon and organized the rescue operation immediately.”
In her own defense, Pearl said:
What Guo Yushan told the Apple Daily on May 1 when I was in control was totally consistent with what I tweeted on April 27, when Guo Yushan was under detention.
Her defense was quickly slammed by Wen Yunchao:
这就比较不要脸了。玉闪说是他主导，你的行动是他安排的；你说是你接到求助去把人送到北京，两者完全一样？RT @pearlher 5月1日，我被控制时，郭玉闪接受苹果日报采访的内容，和4月27日，郭玉闪被控制时，我发的推内容、性质完全一样。
— 北风（温云超） (@wenyunchao) May 16, 2012
That’s shameless. Guo Yushan said he was the leader and that he arranged your activities, and you said you received the plea for help and sent him to Beijing. How are your statements consistent with each other?
He Peirong was lauded as a heroine soon after she was detained by Chinese authorities and questioned about her role in rescuing Chen Guangcheng
Following news of He Peirong’s detention and disappearance by local authorities, Reggie Littlejohn, President of Women’s Right without Borders, lobbied hard for her release at congressional hearings in the United States, urging American politicians not to forget her as they negotiate for Chen Guangcheng’s release. She was also quickly lauded by the press as the heroine behind Chen’s escape.
He Peirong’s critics allege, however, that her incomplete presentation of what happened not only undermined Guo Yushan’s contribution to the rescue of Chen Guangcheng but also brought him and other activists unnecessary trouble. Despite all these, Guo Yushan issued a statement, urging all sides to calm down:
On rescuing Chen Guangcheng, although some of the details Pearl said were not very accurate and some even brought me extra trouble, I could still handle them generally… She was brave to pick up Chen Guangcheng with me. Both Chen and I have only admiration for her.
All I strive for is Chen Guangcheng’s safety, and my wish has never changed… I really do not want such a big event bring out so much hostilities… couldn’t you both sides make some recessions and forget all about that?