PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 May, 2013, 7:10pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

Guangdong activist raises questions over disabled boy's captivity


Patrick Boehler has published on China and Southeast Asia in four languages for publications in the US, Europe and Asia. After stints with Austria's ministries of defence and foreign affairs in Vienna and Beijing, he began his reporting career in Kuala Lumpur with the Malaysian online news portal Malaysiakini and, later, The Irrawaddy Magazine, a Myanmar exile publication in Thailand. He holds a doctorate in political science and has taught journalism at the University of Hong Kong. Follow him on Twitter: @mrbaopanrui

Long-time petitioner Chen Fengqiang expected to be questioned or taken into custody when police entered his apartment in Zhuhai on the evening of April 28, but instead they brought him a disabled, mute boy.

Chen had been fighting for custody of eight-year-old Chen Ya (not his real name) since he was released from prison last May, petitioning for the child’s release with the help of well-known human rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan.

Chen Fengqiang had previously lived with the boy and his mother, Wei Fen, his girlfriend. But after the boy’s mother was detained by police in 2009, he cared for the boy.

Then after Chen was sent to jail, Chen claims Zhuhai’s Sanzao township authorities illegally detained the boy for four years at an unofficial auxiliary police force station.

Chen’s lawyer Liu said he had tried to secure the boy’s release in February, but failed. Liu said the police shouldn’t keep a child at the station. “They must hand him to a civil institution,” he said.

While he couldn’t vouch for all the information provided by Chen, Liu said he was convinced that the boy was kept at the station.

Chen said that the boy, who is now mute, brain damaged and had difficulty walking properly, had been healthy before his captivity.

On Sunday, Chen, the boy, and four sympathisers publicly demonstrated in Guangzhou for authorities to investigate the matter. They unfolded a banner, but were immediately detained by police for disturbing the public order, said Liu Sifang, one of the sympathisers.

They did manage to post a message on Sina Weibo, the country’s largest microblogging platform, which led about two dozen people to gather at the police station where the group was detained. The detained were released after spending the night in jail.

On Monday, Chen petitioned the Guangdong Public Security Department, asking for clarification regarding the boy’s case. He said he was listened to, but was told to leave when the office closed for the evening.

Chen said he wanted to know what had happened to the boy during the last four years and where the boy’s mother was. “Of course, I hope she is alive,” he said. “I want us to live together again.”

A Sanzao policeman, who declined to be identified, said he had no knowledge of Chen’s case and that it was unthinkable that township authorities would keep a child imprisoned for four years because it was illegal.


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