HONG KONG—Prominent civil rights lawyers and activists in China have vowed to continue a relay hunger strike in support of Shandong-based activist Chen Guangcheng, who has been held under house arrest at his home since his release from prison earlier this month.
"Basically there hasn't been any improvement [in Chen's situation]," said Fan Yafeng, a legal scholar and Protestant social activist, who began the hunger strike protest on Monday.
"The main thing needed is for his communication links to be restored."
Fan said Chen's case is widely seen as an indicator of the state of human rights in China.
"The personal freedom of Chen's family members has been illegally constrained in recent years," he said.
"Their basic rights have been violated to the point where they can't even go shopping, or seek medical attention."
Chen, 38, has been confined at 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 a Linyi municipal court in August 2006.
Chen, who had exposed abuses like forced abortions and sterilizations by local family planning officials under China's "one-child" population control policy, served the full term in spite of repeated requests for medical parole.
Chen is well-known in China's civil rights community, which is frequently exposed to detention, prison sentences, and official violence and harassment as activists struggle to enforce the rights of the country's most vulnerable people.
Beijing-based rights lawyer Teng Biao said the authorities had canceled the family's fixed-line phone number.
"As far as I know, Chen and his family have been under house arrest he left jail," Teng said. "They are totally incommunicado."
'Something may happen'
Others said they are concerned that Chen will suffer a fate similar to that of top rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who "disappeared" for more than a year without being charged for a specific offense.
"We are truly worried about him, fearing that something may happen to him," said Beijing-based lawyer Jiang Tianyong. "It would be awful if Chen just disappeared in front of our eyes."
Hong Kong Democratic legislator Albert Ho, who led a campaign of lawyers calling for Gao’s release, called on Beijing to explain the government's actions towards Chen.
"We are very concerned about Chen Guangcheng and his family," Ho said.
"We are furious because what happened to him was absolutely illegal and totally unacceptable."
"We call on the international community to pay attention to this matter. We also believe that Beijing owes us an explanation."
Original reporting in Mandarin by Zhang Min and in Cantonese by Bi Zimo. Translated by Jia Yuan and Luisetta Mudie. Written in English by Luisetta Mudie.