'Free Chen' Campaign Widens

A growing number of Chinese petitioners are pushing for the release of an activist lawyer under house arrest.

chenguangcheng2011-305.jpg Screen grab of Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng from a video showing his life under house arrest.

Petitioners in Shanghai have become the latest to join an expanding Chinese campaign to free blind Shandong activist Cheng Guangcheng, who is being held under house arrest following his release from a four-year jail term last year.

More than 370 people from Shanghai signed a petition presented to the municipal government on Thursday, calling on the authorities to restore full freedom of movement to Chen, his wife and young daughter.

"In total, 378 citizens of Shanghai signed to support the campaign to free Chen Guangcheng," said rights campaigner Feng Zhenghu.

"Chen is a well-known rights activist from Shandong, and he is just like activists all over China who try to help petitioners."

"He should not have his rights violated like that," Feng said.

Feng said petitioners had joined the campaign because many of them had had similar experiences to Chen.

"Chen isn't the only one who is dealt with illegally," he said. "Many rights activists, petitioners and ordinary citizens are treated the same way."

House arrest

Chen's continued house arrest under 24-hour guard by local people hired by the government is prompting increasing criticism of the local authorities in his home county of Yinan.

Activists have mounted a campaign in recent weeks to visit Chen, who has been held at his home in Dongshigu village near Shandong's Linyi city since his release from a four-year, three-month jail term in September 2010.

Now, support for their campaign is gaining ground among intellectuals, and even finding a sympathetic ear in China's official media.

Last week, the official Global Times newspaper called on Linyi officials to be more open about his situation.

Chen, 38, a self-taught lawyer who has persistently campaigned for the rights of ordinary people under China's draconian family-planning regime, was jailed for “damaging public property and obstructing traffic” in August 2006.

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 exceeded local birth quotas.

Allowed schooling

Chinese netizens concerned for the fate Chen and his family said recently that local officials look set to keep him, his wife, and young daughter imprisoned in a specially built jail.

However, they reported via microblogging services on Wednesday that the authorities had agreed to allow Chen's daughter to attend primary school.

Chen Kesi received notification of her school place last Friday, according to Nanjing-based activist He Peirong, known on microblogging services by her nickname @pearlher.

"She will have to be accompanied to and from school every day by no fewer than two minders," He said.

"The authorities have constructed a cabin at the school gates with windows overlooking the school and the main road," she said.

She said the news had come following talks between Chen's elder brother and local officials.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service and by Pan Jiaqing for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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