Fears For Activist And Family

Beijing tightens the screws on a blind campaigner for women's rights issues.

Screen grab of Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng from a video showing his life under house arrest in early 2011.

Chinese netizens have launched a campaign to help blind Shandong-based activist Chen Guangcheng, who is feared to be running out of food as the authorities prevent anyone in his family from leaving the house to buy groceries.

Guo Yushan, who heads the independent research group called the Transition Institute, said on the popular Sina Weibo microblogging service that he was increasingly concerned about the plight of Chen, who has been held under house arrest with his entire family since his release from jail last September.

"They aren't allowed out to buy groceries, so they are relying on some stores of grain they had put by," Guo tweeted. "His 70-year-old mother is only allowed out to tend to their vegetable patch with an escort of three people."

"The family are forbidden to have contact with anyone, including their relatives," wrote Guo.

"The authorities have confiscated the last piece of paper in the house, so they can't even home-educate their six-year-old daughter."

Chen's elder son, who lives with relatives in another county while he attends primary school, was strip-searched after leaving the family home at the lunar new year celebrations, Guo said.

Guo said he was very concerned about the family's access to food, and about Chen's health, as the activist had suffered bloody diarrhea since his release from jail, and had been refused permission to seek medical attention.

The family was now without television, radio or any books, he added, and Chen's wife Yuan Weijing had suffered broken bones from a beating she received at the hands of the authorities after the couple smuggled out a video of their lives under house arrest.

But Guo declined to give media interviews on Tuesday.

"I'm sorry, I can't give interviews," he said. "You can access it directly [online]."

His post included a hand-drawn map of the area around the Chen family home in Dongshigu village, Yinan county.


Nanjing-based online activist He Peirong, known on the microblogging service Twitter as @pearlher, said she had received more than 13,000 yuan (U.S.$2,000) in donations from concerned netizens after she launched an online campaign last month to help Chen and his family.

"Some rights activists have been released lately, but there has been no improvement in Chen Guangcheng's situation," He said. "All the diplomatic efforts...have failed."

She said the campaign wasn't only aimed at collecting money for Chen.

"Even more, it's about expressing our support," He said. "We set it up so each person would donate one yuan per month."

"We hope to make a strong expression of our support if we get enough people to take part."

In June, following the video release, He reported an increase in the number of security guards all around Chen's home in Yinan county since her last trip there in January.

She said Chen's family were completely cut off from the outside world, and that the number of people watching the house and surrounding streets had increased.

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.

Chen, 38, a self-taught lawyer who has persistently campaigned for women's rights issues, was confined to his 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.

Chen had exposed abuses like forced abortions and sterilizations by local family planning officials under China’s “One Child” population-control policy. He had served the full jail term in spite of repeated requests for medical parole.

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.

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

Chinese authorities had launched an unprecedented crackdown on dissent around the country following online, anonymous calls early this year for a "Jasmine" revolution inspired by uprisings in the Middle East.

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


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