Blind activist claims in secret video that he is under house arrest

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A blind and barefoot lawyer, who famously exposed cases of forced abortions in provincial China, has appeared in a secretly shot video in which he claims he is being held under house arrest by state officials, despite being freed from prison last year. "I have come out of a small jail and walked into a bigger jail," Chen Guangcheng says in the video, released by the US Christian activist group, ChinaAid and shot at the end of last year.

"No one is allowed to enter my home. Whenever fellow villagers try to help us, they are called accomplices and national traitors and counter-revolutionaries," he says. It's the first message from Mr Chen, who lives in eastern Shandong province, since he was released from prison after serving a four-year sentence.

In the video Mr Chen says that security teams have blocked his phone calls, and only his 76-year-old mother is allowed to leave the house to buy food. His wife, Yuan Weijing, talks of her concerns for the couple's two young children and weeps. The rights group China Human Rights Defenders and Radio Free Asia were both reporting late last night that Mr Chen and his wife had been beaten by police and security officials because of the video they made about their house arrest.

Mr Chen was jailed in 2006 on trumped-up charges of damaging property and organising a mob to disrupt traffic during a protest. His supporters say he was on trial for publishing a report about the status of women in his local area of Linyi. He revealed controversial details of how family-planning officials in the area enforced China's one-child policy.

The report said that tens of thousands of people were forced to undergo late-term abortions, or were forcibly sterilised. He included accounts of men being arrested while their wives were compelled to abort eight-month pregnancies. The Chinese government says no one is physically forced not to have children and since the one-child policy was introduced, China has prevented more than 400 million births.

After his conviction, Mr Chen was named one of the world's 100 most influential people by Time magazine. He has also been the recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award and other international human rights awards.

Mr Chen is one of China's most famous political dissidents, alongside jailed HIV/Aids campaigner Hu Jia, the Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo and the human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng. Liu Xiaobo's wife, Liu Xia, is also under house arrest and has been unreachable since shortly after her husband won the Nobel Prize in mid-October.

Mr Chen's plight was raised by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shortly before Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington last month.