Activist Chen Guangcheng Released after Serving Full Sentence
Activist Chen Guangcheng Released after Serving Full Sentence
Authorities Must Stop Soft Detention and Harassment of Chen and Family
(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, September 9, 2010) –Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚), a well-known human rights activist and “barefoot lawyer,” was released today from Linyi Prison in Shandong Province after serving his full term of four years and three months of imprisonment. Convicted in 2006 of “intentionally damaging property and gathering crowds to disturb transport order,” Chen was jailed for his work exposing local authorities’ use of violence against villagers during official family planning campaigns.
Chen was sent home directly by prison authorities at around 6 this morning. According to his friends and supporters, following his release, Chen stated, “I have not changed at all…I want to thank all the friends who have been concerned about me.” While he appears to be in good spirits, Chen is in poor health: he looks weak and thin, and is still ill from chronic gastroenteritis. Chen has suffered from this illness since July 2008, and was not provided with adequate treatment while imprisoned. He was also beaten by fellow inmates on at least one occasion.
In the days leading up to Chen’s release, his wife, fellow human rights defender Yuan Weijing (袁伟静), was tightly monitored by local officials. Plainclothes policemen appeared outside her door and followed her whenever she left her home and on occasion prevented her from going out.
Police surveillance is nothing new for Yuan, who has been under intermittent soft detention since August 2005. In addition to frequently barring her from leaving her home, guards stationed outside of Yuan’s house have attacked and beaten her visitors and friends, and officials have retaliated against her supporters. For example, on March 8, 2009, prominent journalist Wang Keqin (王克勤) and his friends were assaulted and threatened for visiting Yuan. Xu Yishun (徐义顺), a Hebei reporter and activist, was sent to 18 months of Re-education through Labor in April 2010 after he attempted to visit her. Her communications are also limited: police monitor Yuan’s cell phone, preventing many calls from getting through, and her internet has been disconnected for the past four years.
CHRD urges the Chinese government to stop the soft detention and harassment of Chen and his family and to ensure that Chen will not be prevented from seeking medical treatment.
While Chen may have been released from incarceration, the officials who retaliated against Chen for his rights activism have not been absolved of their responsibility in this case. CHRD calls on the Chinese government to hold legally accountable those Linyi County and Shandong Province officials suspected of ordering or carrying out abuses of Chen and Yuan’s rights. These abuses include, but are not limited to: keeping Chen and his family under soft detention and surveillance for long periods of time, and imprisoning Chen solely for the peaceful activities of documenting and publishing human rights abuses and organizing fellow citizens to defend their rights.
CHRD urges the UN Human Rights Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Special Representative on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to inquire into the Chinese government’s failure to protect human rights defenders, particularly those at the grassroots level who, like Chen and Yuan, are most vulnerable to corrupt and abusive local officials. CHRD continues to urge the Chinese government to take concrete actions to protect China’s human rights defenders, as it promised to when it endorsed the Declaration to Protect Human Rights Defenders at the UN General Assembly in 1999.
Renee Xia, International Director (English and Mandarin): +852 8191 6937
Wang Songlian, Research Coordinator (English, Mandarin and Cantonese): +852 8191 1660
David Smalls, Researcher (English), +1 347 448 5285
Chen Guangcheng has a long history of campaigning for the rights of villagers and the disabled, and provided free legal consultation to these groups from 1996 until he was detained in the fall of 2005. Starting in April 2005, Chen and Yuan Weijing began to investigate villagers’ claims that Linyi City authorities were employing extensive violence in implementing government birth quotas, and later to put together briefs for lawsuits against officials involved. Their work, and that of activists and lawyers who visited the area to assist in documenting the abuses and in providing legal advice to villagers who wished to take legal action, represented the first known concerted domestic effort to challenge the use of violence in the enforcement of China’s population policy. As a result of their work on the lawsuit, Chen and Yuan were put under house arrest on August 12, 2005. Chen was taken into custody on March 11, 2006, and, on August 24, 2006, convicted of “intentionally damaging property and gathering crowds to disturb transport order” and sentenced to four years and three months imprisonment.
Chen’s efforts to promote human rights have been widely acknowledged internationally. In 2006, Chen was the recipient of the Human Rights Fighter Award of the Asia-Pacific Human Rights Foundation, an organization in New Zealand; in 2007, Chen was awarded the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award; also in 2007, Chen was the recipient of the Freedom of Expression Award by Index on Censorship, a UK organization; and in 2008, Chen was given the National Endowment for Democracy Award in the U.S.
For more information, please see:
“Soft Detention” of Yuan Weijing Continues: Journalist Beaten, Barred from Meeting, March 10, 2009, http://chrdnet.org/2009/03/11/%E2%80%9Csoft-detention%E2%80%9D-of-yuan-weijing-continues-journalist-beaten-barred-from-meeting/
Imprisoned Human Rights Defender Chen Guangcheng Denied Medical Care, January 14, 2009, http://chrdnet.org/2009/01/14/imprisoned-human-rights-defender-chen-guangcheng-denied-medical-care/
Shandong Officials Continue Harassing Wife of Jailed Human Rights Defender, November 24, 2007, http://chrdnet.org/2008/11/24/shandong-officials-continue-harassing-wife-of-jailed-human-rights-defender-2/
Wife of Jailed Human Rights Defender Barred from Seeking Medical Treatment , October 31, 2007, http://chrdnet.org/2007/10/29/wife-of-jailed-human-rights-defender-barred-from-seeking-medical-treatment/
Officials Ignored Requests for Medical Parole and for Filing Complaints to Higher Court about Verdict, March 23, 2007, http://chrdnet.org/2007/03/25/chen-guangcehng-human-rights-defender-in-prison/