Fears For Blind Activist's Family

The rights activist's mother hasn't left the family home and his daughter hasn't shown up at school since late January.

Screen grab of Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng from a video showing his life under house arrest.

Concerns have emerged over the family members of blind Shandong activist Chen Guangcheng, as the authorities placed another group of activists under surveillance this week after they planned to help him.

Chen has been held under house arrest for more than 16 months after his release from a four-year jail term sparked by his legal work on behalf of women who suffered abuse at the hands of family planning officials desperate to keep birth quotas low.

His wife, Yuan Weijing, and the couple's young daughter Chen Kesi, together with Chen's mother, have been held with him, and have been denied visits from friends or family, or access to technology as well as books, pens, or paper.

Now, residents of Chen's home village of Dongshigu, in Shandong's Yinan county, say they haven't seen Chen's mother leave the family home since Chinese New Year in late January.

Shandong-based rights activist Wang Xuezhen said on Tuesday that she had planned to travel to the village to find out more about the situation in the Chen household, but had been prevented from setting out by state security police.

"This morning, there were three vehicles parked outside my apartment block, with five people in them," Wang said. "They didn't speak to me, but they follow me in those cars wherever I go."

She said Beijing-based artist Xin Ba, who sat inside a perspex cage in support of Chen last year, had also been warned off trying to publicize Chen's case in the capital.

"He made an orange lantern [over Chinese New Year] and wore colored lanterns on his body and walked up and down Sanlitun like that," Wang said, referring to a popular nightlife district in Beijing.

"The Shandong state security police warned him to behave himself for now, and not to do anything [like this] again in Beijing," she said.


Nanjing-based rights activist and long-time Chen supporter He Peirong, known by her online nickname @pearlher, said villagers had also told activists that Chen Kesi had failed to show up for the first day of school at her primary school, following the Chinese New Year break.

"On New Year's Day, they saw the old lady come crying out of the building, and try to go to the place where Chen Guangcheng's brother is laid to rest, but the guards on the door stopped her from going there, and carried her back inside," He said.

"The villagers say that they haven't seen her come out since."

Chen's mother had previously been the only person in the household permitted to buy groceries on behalf of the family.

She said activists feared that Chen's mother might be sick, or else have been forbidden to leave home by higher authorities.

"Both possibilities are a matter of grave concern," He said.

She said the couple's daughter, Chen Kesi, hadn't been seen either, since she went alone to tend her uncle's grave.

"Sunday was enrolment day at the school, and the parents were surprised to see that there were no [official] cars dropping off the child," He said.


She said her own plans to visit Chen's village had been stymied by state security police.

"They had me 'drink tea' with them for the best part of a day," she said. "They said a whole bunch of stuff."

"Basically they told me not to go to Shandong today, and that they would be 'drinking tea' with me again on Wednesday."

Activists say Chen and Yuan were severely beaten earlier this year after they smuggled out a video that detailed their lives under house arrest.

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 exceed local birth quotas.

Reported by Grace Kei Lai-see for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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Feb 15, 2012 05:09 AM

My prayers to Mr Chen and his family. Wish China has more heroes like him out of its billion population.