A blind Chinese activist who has suffered extreme abuse by government authorities for revealing the coercive nature of the country’s one-child policy is due to be set free after serving a four-year prison sentence.
Chen Guangcheng, 39, was arrested in 2006 after he advocated in favor of Chinese women who had fallen victim to forced abortions at the hands of the Chinese government.
Although her husband’s term is up this week, Yuan Weijing told AFP Wednesday that she has not been notified of Guangcheng’s impending release. However, she said, “I plan to go to the prison tomorrow morning and wait at the gate and meet him.”
“Four years have passed, at last Chen Guangcheng can finally come home. Of course I am very happy,” she said.
As a self-taught lawyer, Guangcheng had taken it upon himself to launch a class-action suit against government officials in his hometown of Linyi. He claimed that a policy to crack down on childbirth in the town had lead officials to sterilize parents who already had two children, and force mothers’ to undergo abortions should a third child be conceived. If family members helped a pregnant woman resist, they were tortured until the mother was handed over and the unborn child killed.
Guangcheng had helped publish the story of Feng Zhongzia, a woman from the rural outskirts of Linyi who described the story of her forced abortion to the Washington Post in 2005.
When it was discovered that Feng was seven months pregnant, she said, government authorities responded by kidnapping 12 members of her family, starving and beating them, and telling Feng that “they would peel the skin off my relatives and I would only see their corpses” if she did not hand herself in. She said she complied and, following the abortion, was forcibly sterilized.
Guangcheng was placed under house arrest in August of 2005, and suffered kidnapping and beatings before being thrown in jail in 2006 on charges of “willfully damaging property” and “organizing a mob to disturb traffic.” Guangcheng’s 2006 trial was severely hampered by the disappearance of three key witnesses, and the beating of lawyers sympathetic to Guangcheng.
Although the government’s previous treatment of Guangcheng could bode ill, one sign that officials do in fact plan to release the blind lawyer lies in the surveillance equipment police are setting up outside his home, as reported by his wife.
“From all the surveillance equipment they are installing, it looks like that after he comes home he may not be completely free,” said Yuan.
Guangcheng was among three Chinese activists nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) for their work defending the human rights of Chinese citizens.
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