Blind activist Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠) challenged China’s central government yesterday to prove that it had not ordered his illegal house arrest and to punish those who turned his home into a prison.
The 40-year-old legal campaigner spent two years in illegal house arrest after serving a four-year jail sentence on charges related to his work exposing forced sterilizations and abortions under China’s population control policy.
After his dramatic escape and flight to the US embassy in Beijing, he released a video detailing the abuses he suffered at the hands of local officials in his home province of Shandong.
“The central government needs to prove they were not behind my treatment in Shandong,” Chen said in a telephone interview from the Beijing hospital where he has been since he left the US embassy a week ago.
“I told them if they did not investigate [the illegal house arrest], then everyone would believe that they ordered it,” he said. “If they go down and punish those in Shandong, then people will believe that this was the doing of officials in Shandong.”
Chen has been a symbol of China’s dismal human rights record since his 2006 conviction, with the US and the EU condemning his treatment.
Since his release from jail in 2010, up to 100 security guards have surrounded Chen’s home in Dongshigu village 24 hours a day, preventing him and his wife from leaving their home and stopping outsiders from seeing him.
No legal explanation for his house arrest was ever announced by the local government in Shandong.
Chen’s supporters, as well as foreign and domestic journalists, who sought to visit him and his family were routinely beaten by the security guards if they approached the village.
“For two years they treated me brutally, coming into the home to threaten and beat us,” Chen said. “For two years they did not allow me any outside communication. I could not see friends, they did not let me read newspapers, they even confiscated our television and radio.”
His escape from the heavily guarded home last month became a major diplomatic affair after he sought refuge in the US embassy days ahead of a visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Chen spent six days in the embassy before being taken to a Beijing hospital after the embassy and the Chinese government reportedly came to an agreement.
He has since said he fears for his and his family’s safety and would like to go to the US, where he has been offered fellowships to study law. China has said he can apply to leave the country for study abroad.