11/05/2010, 00.00
CHINA
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Blind activist Chen under unlawful house arrest

Released in September after long years in prison for his opposition to forced abortions, he is currently under house arrest with his wife, watched over by dozens of police. Even relatives are not allowed to see him and fear for his health. Human Rights in China calls on the international community to put pressure on the authorities for his release.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Released on 9 September after years in prison, blind rights activist Chen Guangcheng has been placed under virtual house arrest without charges or trial in the village of Dongshigu (Shandong), this according to Human Rights in China (HRIC), which has called on the international community to step up pressure on Beijing over Chen’s “illegal de facto imprisonment”.

Since his release, Chen and his wife, Yuan Weijing have not been allowed to leave their home, and no one—not even Chen’s mother—has been allowed to visit the couple since early October.

"Currently, measures similar to martial law have been imposed by the authorities in Chen’s village, Dongshigu, Shandong province," and “no one knows the situation of Chen and his wife,” HRIC reported. Indeed, “many are deeply worried about their safety and security”.

Shenzhen-based rights activist Yang Lin said he tried to visit Chen last Saturday, but found a village sealed off by the authorities, the village’s main intersection full of plainclothes police officers, and Chen’s home monitored by TV cameras.

“His sister-in-law and his mother and his elder sister are all afraid that there's no food in the house for the family to eat," Yang said.  Until September, they were able to bring something, but that stopped in October.

Chen has denounced forced abortions and sterilisations by local authorities eager to implement the country’s family planning policy of one child per couple.

For this, he was placed under house arrest. He was later tried and convicted, getting four year, three month sentence in prison for destruction of property and assembling a crowd to disrupt traffic, offences he is supposed to have committed whilst under house arrest.

He was released after serving his entire sentence and this despite repeated requests for early release on medical grounds.

 “To imprison a man in his own home who has already completed his prison sentence and is not subject to deprivation of political rights is an outrage,” said HRIC Executive Director Sharon Hom. “Unfortunately, this is a reflection of the current regression of rule of law in China”.

For Rev Fan Yafeng, a Protestant clergyman, Chinese leaders feel under pressure from international criticism after jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and that they are way of reacting to the situation is by further restricting personal liberties.

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