Ms Yuan, who is under round-the-clock surveillance, said she had seen Chen only twice since he was detained three-and-a-half years ago in a prison in Shandong. Her last visit was in December of last year.
She said her husband has repeatedly asked for a reduction in his jail term for good behaviour.
Chen was arrested in March 2006 and convicted in a phoney trial of deliberately damaging public property and inciting people to block traffic.
It is widely believed instead that Chen was imprisoned for representing thousands of women in Linyi (Shandong) who were forced to have abortions or sterilisations in 2005 so that officials could meet family planning quotas.
Thanks to his actions, local authorities in this east-central province were shown to have forcibly sterilised about 7,000 people.