Sat, Aug 25, 2007 - Page 1 News List

China stops rights activist's wife from picking up award

AP , BEIJING

Chinese authorities yesterday barred the wife of an imprisoned human-rights activist from leaving the country to accept a humanitarian award on her husband's behalf, a friend of the woman said.

Yuan Weijing's (袁偉靜) passport and telephone were confiscated as she attempted to pass through security at Beijing airport to fly to the Philippines, said Hu Jia (胡佳), an advocate for people with AIDS.

She had planned to fly to the Philippines to accept a Magsaysay Award, Asia's version of the Nobel Prize, for her husband, Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠), a self-trained lawyer who helped farmers with grievances file court cases.

Chen, who is blind, was sentenced to four years and three months in prison last year after he documented forced abortions and other abuses by family planning officials in Shandong Province.

Yuan called Hu to let him know her passport had been confiscated but the call was quickly cut off. Attempts to reach her again failed. It was not immediately clear whether she had been detained, although Hu said Yuan called him later to say her luggage had been taken and she had been ``kidnapped,'' although she was unable to say by whom.

In an interview on Thursday, Yuan said, "I haven't done anything wrong, so I'll give it a try, and if they stop me then it's not my problem."

Yuan said authorities in Shandong had attempted to prevent her from coming to Beijing and were blocking her from leaving Hu Jia's apartment where she had been staying. Police blocked her yesterday, but she was eventually able to leave after about 45 minutes.

Hu said Philippines Airlines personnel told his wife that Yuan's baggage had been taken off the plane by police -- a likely sign that she was being forcibly returned to Shandong.

"The biggest loser here is not Yuan Weijing and not the Magsaysay Foundation but the Chinese government," Hu said.

"This just really shows how bad the human rights situation is here," he said.

China also blocked two previous winners of Magsaysay prizes from collecting their awards, including Jiang Yanyong (蔣彥永), who embarrassed the government by revealing the true scale of the 2003 SARS outbreak.

Also blocked was crusading AIDS activist Gao Yaojie (高耀潔), who has been repeatedly harassed by officials seeking to squelch news about the epidemic and government malfeasance that aided the disease's spread.

Hu said Yuan told him authorities cited a statute blocking people who may harm the nation from leaving the country when they took her passport.

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