House built to imprison blind activist
Shandong authorities, who have kept blind activist Chen Guangcheng under house arrest since his release from jail a year ago, have built a house in his village where they plan to imprison him and his wife, an activist and a friend of the couple said yesterday.
Citing village and family sources, activist He Peirong said the authorities planned to move Chen and his wife Yuan Weijing into the purpose-built house surrounded by a high wall at the south of Dongshigu village, Linyi, where they can be kept under closer watch by security agents. She said the house was finished in July but was unsure whether they had been moved in yet.
'They want them to be completely isolated,' she said, adding she had been told the couple's six-year-old daughter is unlikely to be able to join them and would be sent to live with relatives. Their eight-year-old son is already living with relatives and has not been allowed to visit his parents since the Lunar New Year.
Chen's daughter was barred from attending school and had not been allowed out of the house since February, she said. All her toys, books, pens and paper have also been confiscated by the authorities. 'The authorities are mistreating a six-year-old child to threaten them,' He said.
Chen's brothers are also barred from visiting him and had to be accompanied by security agents when they wanted to see their elderly mother at the family home, she said. He herself and several supporters have been beaten in recent months the few times they tried to visit Chen.
A staff member who answered the phone at the Yinan county Public Security Bureau said she had no knowledge of Chen's situation. Chen and his family's phone lines have all been cut. A friend of the couple who recently spoke to Chen's relatives also confirmed the new house had been built. 'It is built so that they could tighten control over them - their home will be their prison,' said the friend, who declined to be named.
A self-taught lawyer who blew the whistle on forced sterilisations and abortions in Shandong, Chen was jailed for four years and three months for organising a crowd to disrupt traffic and damaging public property. He and his family have been kept incommunicado at their house since his release from jail in September last year.