BEIJING (Reuters) - A blind Chinese activist held under informal house arrest since his release from jail was beaten unconscious and not allowed to visit a doctor, his wife said, according to a U.S. advocacy group.
The ChinaAid group on Thursday released what it said was Yuan Weijing’s hand-written account of how she and her husband, Chen Guangcheng, were pummelled and abused by dozens of plain clothes guards who stormed into their village home until Chen passed out for two hours.
Reuters cannot independently verify the letter, which was sent by email and also put on ChinaAid’s website (www.chinaaid.net).
It could rekindle an international outcry about Chen, from a village in eastern Shandong province, where he overcame blindness from childhood to school himself in law and advise residents complaining about land grabs and other abuses.
He attracted widespread attention in 2005 when he accused officials in Shandong province of enforcing late-term abortions in a drive to enforce rules that restrict most couples to one child in cities and two children in the countryside.
In February, ChinaAid released secretly shot video of Chen describing how he remained effectively jailed in his home under pervasive surveillance, despite being released from prison last year.
Now the group, which is based in Texas and campaigns against China’s restrictions on religion, has released a copy of what it said was Yuan’s description of what happened after that video was released abroad.
“Me and my husband Chen Guangcheng again suffered brutal beating and over two hours of abuse and torture,” said the letter, which had some misspelled Chinese characters.
“Without any legal procedures, our home was cleared out (in a search) by over a dozen robbers not wearing any uniforms. Me and my husband were badly beaten, and yet still not allowed to go outside for medical treatment.”
According to the letter, Yuan recounted that on February 18, about a week after Chen’s video was released, dozens of men burst into their home in rural Shandong, in eastern China.
“We were told to do this by our superiors. You should understand without me having to say anything,” Yuan quoted one of the men as saying, according to letter.
Over a dozen men held her under a blanket and kicked her, and when she was able to poke her head out, she saw dozens of men surrounding Chen, pulling and pummelling him.
“Because Guangcheng is weak after suffering diarrhoea for a long time, he lacked the strength to struggle and after this continued for over two hours, Guangcheng finally blacked out.”
Chen was released in September, more than four years after being convicted of damaging property and disrupting traffic in a protest, and has been held under virtual house arrest in his village ever since. He and his family maintain that the charges were fabricated.
Foreign reporters who have tried to visit Chen’s home village have been forced away by unarmed guards.
Bob Fu, the president of ChinaAid, told Reuters the letter was smuggled to the group through “very reliable persons” and the handwriting appeared to match Yuan’s other letters.
Fu said he was unsure when the letter was written.
Calls to government offices in Linyi, where Chen and his family live, to seek comment on the account were not answered. Nor were calls to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
China’s ruling Communist Party says it fully respects citizens’ rights. Police and officials, however, have sweeping powers to confine citizens who challenge the government.
Since February, Chinese authorities have mounted a crackdown on potential political challengers to the party, fearing that anti-authoritarian uprisings in the Arab world could inspire protests against one-party rule.
Dozens of rights activists and human rights lawyers, including those who defended Chen, have been detained.
Yuan said she was allowed to go to a village clinic the day after the beating, according to the letter. But Chen received no treatment and his health has worsened, she said.
In March, officials installed more video cameras around their house to monitor it, she said.
Reporting by Chris Buckley