David L. Chaplin
Impunity Watch, Asia
BEIJING, China – A high-profile, blind Chinese grassroots lawyer and his wife were severely beaten after secretly filming a video documenting their house arrest.
“For five months the blind activist says he has lived under this 24 hour surveillance”
The Telegraph cites Human Rights Defenders, an NGO, as saying that an “inside source” had confirmed to them that Chen and his wife had been beaten senseless in punishment after authorities learned of the video’s existence. “They cannot move from bed, and they have not been allowed to go to hospital,” said a statement.
The blind, self-taught lawyer was sent to prison in 2006 after gaining international attention when he publicized claims that Chinese officials in the eastern province of Shandong were enforcing late-term abortions and sterilizations – in an attempt to control population growth.
The video is the first word from Chen Guangcheng since he was released from prison in September.
Bob Fu, president of the China Aid Association, a Christian rights group, said “somebody has to fight for justice. He was very direct. One thing that really surprised me was his spirit of boldness, bravery, defiance to the regime itself.”
“Soft detention” is a common tactic used by the Chinese government to intimidate activists, with some essentially put under house arrest for years.
“I have come out of a small jail and walked into a bigger jail,” Chen says in the video, wearing black sunglasses and a black jacket inside his modest home. He says his house is watched by 22 people.
In the video, Chen says authorities have created a security zone that includes blocks on cell phone calls and intimidation of his family and neighbors.
Bob Fu of China Aid, which has offices in Texas, made an impassioned plea for Chen’s release. “Chen Guangcheng is a hero to many people around the world, a peaceful advocate for human rights and a defender of society’s most vulnerable, its women and children,” he said. The video is the first news of the Chinese advocate’s whereabouts in five months.
Chen says. “I cannot take even half a step out of my house. My wife is not allowed to leave either. Only my mother can go out and buy food to keep us going,” said the activist, who used to offer legal advice to local people.
“I can be jailed again at any time, it is very easy. They can say I am a criminal and just lock me up.”
Mr. Chen said he could be beaten at any time and that any such action would be ignored by the authorities. “They are trying to provoke me, if I dare to fight back they can accuse me of assault and jail me,” he said.
China Aid said it was releasing the video to show the persecution Mr. Chen is facing at the hands of the government.
“Mr. Chen is living in miserable conditions, cut off from all outside contact, and detained illegally in his home,” said Bob Fu, China Aid’s founder and president.
“We cannot believe that China is serious about the rule of law when Chen Guangcheng and other rights advocates are jailed, disappeared, or harassed.”
Mr. Chen has been held ever since he completed a four-year prison term in September.
The government does not allow any challenge to its authority and keeps a tight rein on the media. Beijing censors newspapers and television and has also invested considerable resources in trying to control what Chinese people see and read on the internet.
For more information, please see:
Time – Chinese Video of Detained Lawyer Released – 10 February 2011
The Huffington Post – Chen Guangcheng, Chinese Civil Rights Activist, Beaten Over Secretly Recording House Arrest (Video) – 10 February 2011
BBC – China activist Chen Guangcheng ‘beaten’ – 10 February 2011