Blind Chinese human rights activist remains under surveillance

Amnesty International has urged the Chinese authorities to end the continued surveillance and harassment of a blind human rights activist, who has been kept under unofficial house arrest since he was released from prison last week.Chen Guangcheng had served a four-year prison sentence for charges relating to his involvement in a legal action against forced sterilizations and abortions carried out by the authorities on thousands of women in the Shandong province.He was released from jail in the city of Linyi on 9 September and escorted back to his home village of Donshigu where he and his family were placed under heavy surveillance. “Despite being released after serving his sentence, Chen Guangcheng is still effectively being kept a prisoner in his own home,” said Amnesty International.”The Chinese authorities must end this harassment and surveillance and let him and his family move about free from intimidation and interference.” According to media reports, the authorities have installed surveillance cameras around Chen Guangcheng’s house and village prior to his release. Plain-clothed police and government officials surround his house and their home phone lines are cut.Neither Chen Guangcheng nor his family have been allowed to leave home, even to buy food. Chen Guangcheng has not been allowed to visit his doctor for a check-up despite fears that he may be in need of urgent medical attention due to ill-treatment while in prison.Chen Guangcheng was severely kicked and beaten by fellow inmates on the orders of prison guards on 16 June 2007 after he refused to have his head shaved. He was denied medical treatment and later told his wife that he thought one of his ribs may have been broken.He is also thought to have suffered as a result of food poisoning while in prison.Chen Guangcheng lives with his wife Yuan Weijing, their five-year-old daughter and his 76-year-old mother. Chen Guangchen’s son is staying with Yuan Weijing’s sister in Yinan city so that he can go to school. They too are under heavy surveillance.Chen Guangcheng, who taught himself law, helped villagers to take legal action against the Linyi city authorities, who had allegedly been forcing thousands of women to have abortions to meet birth quotas set by government.He was placed under house arrest in September 2005. In August 2006, after a grossly unfair trial, he was sentenced to four years and three months in prison for “damaging public property and gathering people to block traffic”.Chen Guangcheng appealed against his sentence later that year, was re-tried and appealed again but on 12 January 2007 the Linyi Intermediate People’s Court upheld the original verdict.Amnesty International campaigned for his release and named him as a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for his peaceful activities in defence of human rights.