Chen Supporters Detained in Shandong

Chinese authorities scuttle planned birthday bash for a blind activist under house arrest.
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Screen grab of Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng from a video showing his life under house arrest.
Screen grab of Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng from a video showing his life under house arrest.

Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong detained on Saturday at least 13 people attempting to make a birthday visit to blind human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng under house arrest.

They also held campaigners who tried to organize mass visits to Chen's home village of Dongshigu ahead of his 40th birthday.

A key campaigner, Nanjing-based activist He Peirong, known online as @pearlher, said via the microblogging service Twitter that she had been held overnight by state security police ahead of the planned action.

She has helped coordinate around 100 attempts to visit Chen, who has been under house arrest with his family since ending four years in prison in 2010, but many of them were beaten and robbed by suspected government-hired armed guards surrounding their home.

"I'm home," He tweeted on Saturday afternoon. "I refused food and water inside the police station for two days straight."

"At last I don't have to sleep on the table in the meeting room," she wrote.

He had vowed to hunger strike until she was released.

On Saturday, around 40 activists tried to travel to Dongshigu village but were intercepted by police, activists told Agence France-Presse.

The majority of Chen's supporters were put back onto the bus they had hired and escorted back to nearby Linyi city, they said. However, 13 were "taken away" by police.

"We have not come to ask Chen to help us. We are here for human rights in China, for which Chen has done so much," said supporter Zhang Fuying.

Among other issues, Chen had been a strong campaigner of forced abortions and sterilizations under China's 'one-child' family planning policy.

"He has the right to eat a piece of cake with ordinary people," Zhang said.

Group followed

More than 30 police vehicles were parked near their bus, he said, adding that the group were followed when they went to the bathroom and had been unable to buy food since the morning.

Some supporters had traveled from Shanghai, via Beijing, to make the trip, including petitioner Mao Hengfeng.

"Chen has always been interested in the poor and vulnerable—now we must take an interest in him," Mao said.

Netizens posted photos of gatherings of people, wearing dark glasses like Chen himself, drinking toasts to the activist, on Twitter.

Well-wishers also sent birthday cards and recorded messages of support to Chen via the Internet as part of a growing campaign to protest against his house arrest.

One Guangzhou-based netizen who sent a birthday card told RFA's Mandarin service the message it contained: "The eyes which can't see can still see the light.

"They can suppress your body but not your spirit," he wrote to Chen on Friday.

Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia said via Twitter: "I got out of jail in June, and this is the first birthday card I've been able to send to Chen Guangcheng myself."

'Frightened atmosphere'

Meanwhile, netizen A Gui said he had made himself a T-shirt with Chen's photograph printed on the front before traveling to Shandong in an attempt to visit Chen on Saturday.

"I want them to seek me out rather than anyone else," A Gui said. "Maybe that way the others will be spared a beating."

"There is a frightened atmosphere among us right now...[My T-shirt is supposed to show that] we are going openly, in broad daylight, advertising it even on our clothes."

Chen, a self-taught lawyer who campaigned for the rights of rural
women under China's draconian family-planning regime, was jailed for more than four years for “damaging public property and obstructing traffic” in August 2006.

Following his release, he made a daring video, smuggled to the US-based group ChinaAid, in which he said police threatened to beat him or throw him back in jail if he spoke out.

Activists say he and his wife were severely beaten up for the video action.

Chen and his family have been confined to their home and denied access to books, paper, or pens and electronic equipment, as well as being cut off from contact with the outside world.

Aside from highlighting forced abortions and sterilizations by local family planning officials, Chen had also spoken up against official harassment and attacks on families who exceed local birth quotas.

Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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