Journalists and supporters of blind Shandong activist Chen Guangcheng have further stepped up attempts to visit the self-taught lawyer and his family, who have been held under house arrest at their home for more than a year.
Like many before them, however, the latest group to visit Shandong's Yinan county met with robbery and violence.
"We drove over here at about noon today," activist Guo Feng said in an interview on Wednesday. "After we got here, we went to the township government, and they chased us away."
"Then we went to the police station, where there were some minor clashes [with police]," Guo said.
Chinese independent journalist Li Jianjun said on Tuesday he had been given the go-ahead to meet with Chen, but when he, Guo, and fellow activist Wang Xueqin arrived at Dongshigu village, they were turned back.
"As soon as we got to the main intersection in the village, we knew it wouldn't work," Guo said.
"There were three of us, and two journalists to take a note of everything for the record."
Wang said she was slapped in the face by an employee at the local police station after she reported having her phone stolen by unidentified guards at the entrance to Chen's home village of Dongshigu.
"I told him I'd been robbed and asked him why they weren't registering the case," she said. "I taunted them verbally, asking them if the local government told them to die, would they?"
"One of the police took off his ID card and hit me around the right-hand side of my face," she said.
Threat of beating
Wang said police had told the group that arrangements in Dongshigu village were none of their business. "'You are free to [go there] if you want,' they said, 'and if anything happens you can report it,'" she said.
She said the activists had gone to the police station to seek protection ahead of their attempted visit to the Chen family, to no avail.
"They took away our mobile phones and the presents we had brought for the child," Wang said, referring to Chen's daughter Chen Kesi.
Meanwhile, Li said his attempt to reach the Chen family home had also failed.
"You can't get into the village," Li said on Wednesday. "You have to go back to Yinan county and ask them, and that definitely won't happen."
"The attitude of the police seems to be that if you go into the village, you will get beaten up, and that if you are beaten up, you report it to the police," he said.
"But they won't investigate even if you do report it," Li added. "They just say they'll look into it in their own time, so you'll have taken a beating for nothing."
"They took all of our phones," he said.
Meanwhile, netizens have vowed to keep trying to penetrate the heavy security around Chen's home, and to keep calling attention to his plight.
Buddhist nun Miao Jue, who has taken part in previous attempts to visit Chen, said she was angered to hear of the treatment of activists by Yinan county police.
"They went there with an attitude of trust towards the police," Miao said. "Not only did they not deal with the problem, they even beat people."
"We all have a very simple aim," she said. "That is to have Chen get medical attention and to find out how his health is. These are very ordinary demands."
In recent days, Chinese netizens have posted portraits of themselves wearing dark glasses on their blogs and microblogs in a show of solidarity with Chen and his family.
Beijing-based rights activist Zeng Jinyan wrote in a blog post that the family's lives had been blighted by government harassment even before Chen's prison sentence.
"Their son used to witness how government-hired thugs assaulted his parents when he was young," she wrote, in a post translated into English by blogger C.A. Yeung.
"During the four years and three months while Guangcheng was in jail, Yuan Weijing had no alternative but to entrust the care of her son to their relatives," wrote Zeng, who is also the wife of Beijing-based AIDS activist and rights campaigner Hu Jia.
"She has been kept under close surveillance and house arrest, and consequently has to endure long-term separation from her son," she wrote.
"Guangcheng has not regained his freedom after he was released from jail. His family’s situation now is much worse than before he was convicted."
Zeng said the couple's six-year-old daughter Chen Kesi has also been held under house arrest since Chen's release in September 2010.
"Their house has been stripped empty. CDs, DVDs, books and paintings are all confiscated," she wrote.
"Friends have made countless attempts to visit Guangcheng. But one by one they were framed, beaten, insulted, robbed, and abandoned in the wilderness."
Chen, 39, a self-taught lawyer who has persistently campaigned for the rights of ordinary people under China's draconian family-planning regime, was handed a four-year, three-month jail term for “damaging public property and obstructing traffic” in August 2006.
Chen had exposed abuses like forced abortions and sterilizations by local family planning officials under China’s “One Child” policy, as well as official harassment and attacks on families who exceeded local birth quotas.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service, and by Grace Kei Lai-see for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.