Chinese extend blind Human Rights activist's jail term


News Update Chen Guangcheng, blind activist, free after more than four years in prison
He denounced violence related to the one child law, with forced abortions and sterilizations in Shandong. In prison he was sick but denied treatment. In recent years, his wife has been under house arrest and isolation, telephone controlled and internet disconnected.

Beijing (AsiaNews / CHRD) - The well-known human rights activist, blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng, was released today from prison in Linyi (Shandong) after serving a sentence of four years and three months. Chen was convicted of "intentionally damaging property and gathering crowds to disturb transport order ". In reality, he had reported forced abortions and sterilizations in campaigns for population control. He also helped local people to document the violence of the one-child law and prosecuted the perpetrators. His reports had led to public demonstrations.

Chen, 39, arrived home at 6 am this morning, transported by prison authorities. According to his friends and supporters he is tried, weak and thin. Since 2008 he has suffered chronic gastroenteritis, but was denied access to treatment in prison. He was also sometimes beaten by other prisoners.

Meeting friends and relatives this morning, Chen told them: "I have not changed at all ... I want to thank all my friends who are worried about me."

His wife, Yuan Weijing was always close to him. Because of this she was placed under strict surveillance, house arrest and solitary confinement. In recent years visitors or journalists who dared to come to her were stopped and beaten by police, her phone is kept under control and internet connection was cut over the past four years.

Chinese authorities arbitrarily extended the 4-year sentence last week of blind activist and self-taught lawyer Chen Guangcheng, one of Time Magazine's most influential people of 2006, for exposing China's brutal one-child policy.

Prompted by a forced sterilization case in 2005, Chen collected testimonies from hundreds of thousands of women who lost children to forced abortion or sterilization, some as late as 8 months into their pregnancies. He was arrested in 2006 and given a 4-year sentence on false charges of traffic violations and creating a mob to block the streets.

Four grueling years later, Chen should now be a free man reunited with his wife, Yuan Weijing. Yet reports indicate several additional weeks have arbitrarily been added to his sentence because he will not confess his crimes or recant his statements against the Chinese government's one-child policy. In his universal column from August 18, Lord David Alton, member of the House of Lords in the UK and co-founder of Jubilee Campaign UK, notes Chen's desire to honor the victims he interviewed and reject the policy that led to 151 million sterilizations and 264 million abortions over the last 30 years.

Over the past four years, Chen shared a crowded cell and survived on bread and water mostly. His health was deteriorating last year according to his wife, who is monitored with her kids by the police all the time.

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