Video Shows Chen's House Arrest

It depicts tight surveillance and restriction around family home.
2011-02-10
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Screen grab of Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng from the video.
Screen grab of Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng from the video.
RFA

A U.S.-based rights group China Aid has released video footage of blind Shandong-based activist Chen Guangcheng and his family under house arrest, in which he says he is still effectively in prison.

"I have come out of a small jail and walked into a bigger jail," Chen says in the video, which details the experience of him and his family under house arrest since his release from a four-year jail term last September.

"No one is allowed to enter my home. Whenever fellow villagers try to help us, they are called accomplices and national traitors and counterrevolutionaries," Chen said.

In his first public statement since his release from prison, Chen, who was mentioned by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in a speech ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao's U.S visit last month, stands inside his family home and describes continuing security measures against him.

Chen, 38, has been confined at home since his release at the end of a jail term of four years and three months for "damaging public property and obstructing traffic" handed down by the Linyi municipal court in August 2006.

Video online

Chen, who had exposed abuses like forced abortions and sterilizations by local family planning officials under China's "one-child" population control policy, served the full term in spite of repeated requests for medical parole.

The video was published online by China Aid, a Christian rights group.

"Mr. Chen is living in miserable conditions, cut off from all outside contact, and detained illegally in his home," the group's founder Bob Fu said in a statement on its website.

"In the video, Chen describes being monitored daily by three shifts of agents with each shift consisting of 22 people."

Shortly after the video was released, Chen's brother Chen Guangfu was taken from his home by local police, his wife said on Thursday.

"They said they had something to discuss with him...and they took him away," she said. "I haven't been able to contact him since.

The video depicted a tight regime of surveillance and restriction in place around the Chen family home, including gadgets placed in neighboring houses to block cell phone calls, cutting the family off from the outside world.

Only Chen's 76-year-old mother is allowed to leave the house to buy food for the family.

Hidden camera

The video opens with the full-on gaze of one of Chen's surveillance team staring straight into the house, and at the hidden camera.

Chen's wife Yuan Weijing speaks to the camera about her worries for the couple's two children, sitting by a bookcase shielded by the half-darkness.

At times, she is overwhelmed by tears. "I don't dare speak loudly," she says.

There are also shots of Chen's children in the dusty courtyard making mud pies and leading their father around.

Journalists and concerned netizens have reported being turned back by officials or gangs of men brandishing sticks when they tried to visit Chen's home in Shandong's Yinan county.

"The video was taken recently at Chen’s farm home in coastal Shandong province and was provided to ChinaAid by a reliable government source who is sympathetic to Chen’s cause and outraged by the treatment of Chen," the statement said.

"Soft detention"

Chen, who made the video around 10 weeks after his release from jail, is well-known in China's civil rights community, which is frequently exposed to detention, prison sentences, and official violence and harassment as activists struggle to enforce the rights of the country's most vulnerable people.

Chinese authorities use house arrest, known in Chinese as "soft detention", as a means of containing and intimidating activists.

One of the most notable cases is that of Liu Xia, wife of jailed Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, who has been cut off from outside contact at the couple's Beijing home since Liu's award was announced on Oct. 8.

Reported by Lam Lok-tong and Grace Kei Lai-see for RFA's Cantonese service and by Ding Xiao for the Mandarin service. Written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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