HONG KONG—Seven members of the U.S. Congress have nominated three leading Chinese rights activists, of whom two are jailed and one is missing, for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Civil rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who has been missing for a year since his detention by Beijing police, jailed Charter 08 activist and writer Liu Xiaobo, and civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng were all named in the letter to the Nobel committee in Oslo.
"It's a very good piece of news," Chen's wife Yuan Weijing, who visited her husband in prison recently for the first time in a year, said.
"I will tell him about it. It will help him to stay informed. I think he will be very happy about it," said Yuan, who is herself under tight surveillance at the couple's home in Yinan county, in the eastern province of Shandong.
"He is still suffering from diarrhea, but seemed alright apart from that," said Yuan, who was allowed a brief exchange lasting no more than 20 minutes with Chen while surrounded by prison guards.
"His skin doesn't look healthy, and he has really aged a lot," she added.
Yuan said her husband has suffered from regular bouts of diarrhea since the end of July 2008, and that prison authorities have refused to grant him a medical examination and treatment despite repeated requests by his family.
"He has been denied medication. His health condition is very poor … he has diarrhea. I brought food with me, but they did not allow me to take it inside [the prison]. I couldn't do anything about it."
Yuan, who has requested medical parole on behalf of Chen but received no reply from authorities, has previously said Chen suffered beatings while in the Linyi municipal prison in June 2007 after he launched an appeal against his conviction.
She added that her home has been under round-the-clock watch by authorities since her husband was detained.
"My house is under 24-hour surveillance. They reduced the number of people watching me to only three, but what is strange is that they know about my every move."
'No one so deserving'
Chen, a self-taught lawyer, was detained repeatedly, beaten, and kept under surveillance after he helped local people take legal action against the Linyi municipal government in cases of alleged forced abortion.
He was sentenced to four years and three months' imprisonment for "damaging public property and obstructing traffic" in August 2006.
Thursday's letter, signed by lawmakers led by New Jersey Republican Christopher Smith, said the Nobel committee had earned a reputation for making awards in the face of strong opposition from governments.
"We can think of no one so deserving of recognition," they wrote of the three activists, "and no one whose recognition would be more timely or do more to foster peace in the 21st century."
Members of national assemblies are among those with the right to nominate candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Charter 08 nominee