China Releases Blind Activist

A blind Chinese lawyer is released after more than four years in prison.
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Blind activist Chen Guangcheng in an undated photo.
Blind activist Chen Guangcheng in an undated photo.
Gongmin Weiquan Wang (

HONG KONG—Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong have released a blind Chinese legal activist who helped to expose widespread abuse by local officials implementing strict population controls.

Chen Guangcheng, 38, had served his full jail term of four years and three months in spite of repeated requests for medical parole from his wife, Yuan Weijing.

"Chen Guangcheng has arrived home," Yuan said in an interview, but added that the couple is still under surveillance by local police.

"There are still people [outside]," she said.

Chen, who said he had suffered severe beatings in the early part of his jail term, said he is now suffering from a cold and diarrhea which began months ago in prison.

"[The beatings] were really bad at the beginning—extremely severe in 2007," he said.

"Now, apart from the diarrhea, I'm not too bad. But my voice went a couple of days ago," he added.

Chen said his health problems still trouble him at night, however.

"[I have had problems] since July 28, 2008," Chen said. "I ate some bad food and that's when it started."

"Since then, the diet I have been given has also been a problem."

Chen said he wished to thank all his supporters, both in China and overseas, but then broke off the interview for health reasons.

Beatings in prison

During his time in jail, the authorities repeatedly ignored requests for medical parole from Chen's lawyer, and frequently denied him family visits, especially during significant holidays and festivals.

Chen suffered beatings while in Shandong's Linyi municipal prison in June 2007 for "being disobedient" after launching an appeal against his conviction to a higher court.

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.

Chen Guangcheng's work exposed a culture of secrecy and impunity among Chinese officials about the enforcement of China's population control policy.

Local officials have admitted to taking draconian measures when they have difficulty meeting population targets imposed by Beijing.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Zhang Min. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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