11/11/2011, 00.00
CHINA
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Massive propaganda campaign against the house arrest of blind activist Chen Guangcheng

by Wang Zhicheng
Millions of people sign petitions, publish photos’ on the Internet, visit the village of Chen risking police beatings and threats. Chen, his wife and their six year old daughter are isolated for reporting forced abortions and sterilizations by local authorities in Shandong.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - Groups of Chinese activists have launched a campaign to criticize the house arrest of blind activist Chen Guangcheng and his family. In a few months the campaign has reached tens of thousands of people, not only among those engaged in campaigning for human rights, but also among ordinary people: this is an unprecedented effort that will set a standard. The campaign is titled "Let there be light (guang), let there be sincerity (cheng)", playing on the characters of his name (Guangcheng).

Chen Guangcheng, 40, blind since childhood, was sentenced in August 2006 to four years and three months for "disturbing traffic and illegal public gathering." In fact, he was helping the farmers of Linyi (Shandong) to protest against local government that forced abortions and sterilizations. Chen, who studied law on his own, offered legal advice, filling in protests and complaints to the courts.

Released from prison in September 2010, he has since been forced under house arrest in his hometown, the village of Dongshigu (Linyi County, Shandong), along with his wife Yuan Weijing and their six year old daughter.

In recent months, because he succeeded in getting a message through to the outside world, Chen and his wife were beaten for hours by security forces.

The House of Chen in Dongshigu is controlled day and night by six cameras. Groups of thugs (police in civilian clothes) ensure that no outsider can visit the prisoners. In recent weeks, journalists, activists, friends and even relatives were beaten and driven away.

Nevertheless, since January of this year, groups of activists have decided to visit the village of Chen, trying to get to his house, later publishing evidence of police violence on the internet: Cars smashed, beatings, threats, ...

In September a group of activists in Beijing produced a T-shirt with Chen’s photo and the slogan "Release Chen Guangcheng." Circumventing censorship, their message - and their picture, wearing the shirt - has spread to millions of Internet users who see in the blind activist’s arrest yet another case of injustice and contempt for human rights in China .

On October 13 in Shanghai’s People's Square, a group gathered signatures in support of Chen, launching the slogan "Let there be light, let there be sincerity." Immediately on the Internet a campaign was unleashed in which each member is photographed with heavy dark glasses (similar to those Chen wears because of his blindness).

Until now, the central government seems to be deaf to the fate of Chen, but on 12 October an editorial appeared in the Global Times, a newspaper linked to the People's Daily, where he is described as "a local activist for the people who have suffered unfair treatment under the family planning policy".

CHRD (China Human Rights Defenders) has prepared a large dossier on Chen and the support campaign for him (see here). It asks the government to release Chen and Beijing to take action against local authorities in Linyi.

CHRD also asks the international community not to forget the blind activist, a UN inquiry into human rights in China, by visiting Chen Guangcheng, and it calls on governments to block entry visas to people connected with his forced detention. Chen Guangcheng is very famous in the world. In 2007, Chen won the Magsaysay Philippine Human Rights (the Nobel Prize of Asia), but neither he nor his wife have ever received permission to go pick it up.

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See also
Shandong: Blind activist appeals verdict of farcical trial
04/09/2006
Blind activist Chen under unlawful house arrest
05/11/2010
Blind activist Chen Guangcheng, escapes from prison. Risk of summary executions
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Persecution of Chen Guangcheng’s family "getting worse"
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Chen Guangcheng: China has good laws, but they have to be applied to the Party
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