Foreign Journalists Denied Access to Jailed Activist’s Wife

2008-01-09
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July 04, 2007: Yuan Weijing with her daughter in Beijing. Photo: Hu Jia

HONG KONG—Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong have prevented a German TV crew from interviewing the wife of a leading civil rights activist, despite new regulations claiming to ease reporting curbs ahead of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

“This past Monday [Jan. 7], a German television journalist told me that she and her crew wanted to visit me today [Wednesday],” Yuan Weijing, wife of jailed activist Chen Guangcheng, told RFA’s Mandarin service.

“Since Chen Guangcheng’s eldest brother, Chen Guangfu, lives in Linyi, I thought it would be more convenient for them to meet up with him there first,” Yuan said, adding that the number of police and local officials watching her house swelled to 40 after the phone call.

Officials also blocked all the roads out of the village, said Yuan, who also needed to get medical supplies for Chen’s elderly mother.

“They stopped my motorbike and prevented me from going. I told them I was only going to the hospital to get medication for my mother-in-law. They told me not to leave the village,” Yuan said.

I was followed by eight people on four motorcycles. They told me that my husband’s eldest brother Chen Guangfu, is still talking to lawyers and journalists, that he is asking to be arrested—just like Chen Guangcheng...

“Eventually, their team leader—after getting permission from higher-ups—allowed me to go. I was followed by eight people on four motorcycles. They told me that my husband’s eldest brother Chen Guangfu is still talking to lawyers and journalists, that he is asking to be arrested—just like Chen Guangcheng,” Yuan added.

Meanwhile, Chen’s brother got a phone call from the local deputy police chief, he said.

“Just before midnight on the evening of Jan. 8, Liu Changjie, the deputy director of the Yinan county Public Security Bureau, called me and said that even if I took the journalists into the village they would not be able to see Weijing,” he said.

Calls to the Yinan county Public Security Bureau went unanswered Jan. 9.

Chen Guangfu said he didn’t know how the authorities found out about the planned interview, which ultimately didn’t happen.

“The deputy director of the Public Security Bureau said I had been repeatedly interviewed by foreign media, and that I was a traitor,” Chen Guangfu said. “He said he could have me arrested anytime. ‘What would your wife and kids do then?’ he asked.”

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Blind rights activist Chen Guangcheng. Photo: Gongmin Weiquan Wang. (www.gmwq.org)

Chen Guangcheng was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in August 2006 for “damaging property and organizing a mob to disturb traffic.” His lawyers and wife say the charge was trumped up by local officials angered by his blistering exposure of abuses by local family planning officials under China’s one-child policy.

His writings, which blew the whistle on the use of forced abortions and other abuses in Linyi city and his home county of Yinan, were widely distributed on the Internet and read by many in China.

Foreign journalists working in China face continued harassment despite new reporting rules brought in for the Olympic Games, according to a recent report by the Beijing-based Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC).

While Beijing relaxed restrictions on foreign journalists at the beginning of 2007, exempting them from having to apply for permission to travel and conduct interviews, the organization said it had received more than 180 reports of harassment from government-hired heavies around the country.

The change was conceived as a way of increasing media freedom—a promise that helped Beijing to win the right to play host to the 2008 Olympics.

The FCCC said its members had been beaten and intimidated, or simply run into obstruction and harassment, particularly in sensitive areas like Tibet and the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where opposition to Chinese rule is strong.

In one case, two reporters investigating an illicit detention center in a Beijing suburb were physically assaulted by thugs, the FCCC said. The new rules will expire Oct. 17, after the Olympic Games and the Paralympics are over.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Zhang Min. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated by Chen Ping. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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