China urged to end restrictions on blind lawyer amid fears of confrontation
China must stop blocking the freedom of movement of detained blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng, Amnesty International said today, following media reports that supporters intend to take action on his 40th birthday tomorrow. An anonymous letter has been circulated calling on on supporters to converge tomorrow on Chen’s home, where he is being held under illegal house arrest, according to reports. The reports have prompted fears of a confrontation with plainclothes security officials who have been violently expelling attempted visitors.A self-taught legal activist who campaigned against forced abortions, Chen Guangcheng was released last September after more than four years in prison. Upon release, he and his family were immediately placed under house arrest in his home village of Donshigu in Shangdong province. “The Chinese authorities claim that Chen is not under any restrictions and is free to live a so-called normal life,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Director for the Asia-Pacific. “There is nothing normal about being illegally confined to your home by a massive security force, and having your visitors being detained and roughed up by thugs at the village gate.” According to media reports, supporters and local human rights groups, 100 guards are employed to keep watch on the family around the clock, and surveillance cameras have been installed around the village. Visitors attempting to visit Chen in the last few months have claimed on overseas Chinese websites that they were beaten bloody, robbed of their possessions, and driven away from the village with bags over their heads. “Even a monk who came to hang some prayer beads was taken away,” one activist reportedly said. Supporter He Peirong (twitter handle @pearlher), known for her regular attempts to visit Chen, was briefly detained this week in Nanjing and told to leave town ahead of Chen’s birthday. “The local authorities of Linyi City must stop this shameful and illegal violence against peaceful visitors,” said Sam Zarifi. “The central government has to take responsibility for the way Chen has been treated, and stop the intimidation, harassment and detention of his supporters.” Chen and his wife were beaten by plainclothes officials in retribution for releasing video footage this February about the restrictive conditions of their house arrest. Numerous fellow lawyers and activists campaigning on his behalf around the country were swept up in China’s mass ‘Jasmine revolution’ arrests that occurred early this year. An online campaign for Chen Guangcheng in which supporters have posted pictures of themselves wearing dark glasses, or putting dark glasses on their social media profile pictures, has been gaining popularity.