HONG KONG—Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong are holding a Chinese legal activist under house arrest though his jail term ended on Monday, prompting him to call on concerned citizens to support him in protest.
Chen Guangcheng, 38, had exposed abuses by local family planning officials, leading to a jail term of four years and three months for "damaging public property and obstructing traffic" handed down by a Linyi municipal court in August 2006.
Chen served the full term of four years and three months in spite of repeated requests for medical parole.
"Now that I have come out of jail, the authorities are putting a lot of effort into keeping me under close surveillance," said Chen, calling on the international community to protest his treatment by the Chinese government.
"I am hoping that international organizations and people of conscience will react to this in a united manner," he said.
"If they can help me today, their actions will help another person tomorrow," Chen said, calling on rights activists and ordinary people to come to his house and photograph the security personnel with their mobile phones.
"If they take away A's cell phone, then B can take a photo. If they go for B's cell phone, then C can record it," he said.
Layers of security
Chen's wife Yuan Weijing said there are four different layers of security personnel watching the family home.
"Between the national highway and our home, there are four layers of surveillance," she said. "Yesterday I wanted to go out to buy some food but they wouldn't allow it."
"I told them we have to eat, and that maybe they should buy food for us, but they said that wouldn't do either."
"The moment I went outside, about 20 people got to their feet and started to surround me," Yuan said.
She said friends and relatives who tried to bring food to the family were being refused entrance as well, and only Chen's 76-year-old mother was being allowed out to buy food for the entire family.
Yuan, whose repeated requests for medical parole for Chen were ignored by prison authorities, said she is still very concerned about her husband's health.
"I am most worried about the continuing diarrhea and the persistent cough," Yuan said. "For the first few days after his release he couldn't speak at all."
She said Chen had lost a lot of weight in jail. "He has a lot of grey hair and he has a sort of haunted look," she said.
Chen suffered beatings while in Shandong's Linyi municipal prison in June 2007 for "being disobedient" after launching an appeal against his conviction to a higher court.
'Give his freedom back'
Chen, a self-taught lawyer, was detained repeatedly, beaten, and kept under surveillance after he helped local people take legal action against the Linyi municipal government in cases of alleged forced abortion.
Beijing-based civil rights lawyer Li Subin said Chen should have his freedom back now that his jail term has ended.
"Instead, the state-run prison has followed him back home, where he is still imprisoned under house arrest," Li said. "We have been working towards democracy and the rule of law for 30 years in this country, and we can still see cruelty like this today."
"But if everyone takes this issue seriously, I don't see how the gangster behavior of the local government and the banditry of the local judiciary can carry on for too long."
Meanwhile, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), a senior member of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, in a statement called on the Chinese government to release Chen from house arrest.
"The prison release of Chen Guangcheng, one of China’s most heroic human rights defenders, is good news but only a step in the right direction,” said Smith.
“The fact that Chen remains under house arrest, imprisoned in his own home, and is reportedly in need of urgent medical attention, must not be ignored. I appeal to the Chinese government to let Chen move about freely and ensure that he has access to the care he needs.”
Chen Guangcheng's work exposed a culture of secrecy and impunity among Chinese officials about the enforcement of China's population control policy.
Local officials have admitted to taking draconian measures when they have difficulty meeting population targets imposed by Beijing.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Zhang Min, with additional reporting by Joshua Lipes. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.