Rights group says China activist beaten over video

Chen Guangcheng and his wife have been blocked from going to a hospital.

Updated: Feb 11, 2011, 13:23 PM IST

Beijing: A Chinese activist lawyer and his wife have been beaten by police and state security officials for making a secret video that shows their life under strict house arrest, a rights group said on Friday.

China Human Rights Defenders said a reliable source told it that Chen Guangcheng and his wife, Yuan Weijing, have been blocked from going to a hospital after Tuesday`s beating, which was described as "not light" but not life-threatening.

Chinese officials could not be reached for comment, and the group`s claims could not be independently verified.

The US-based China Aid Association released a video on Thursday of Chen and Yuan talking about life under months of round-the-clock surveillance in their rural home after Chen`s release from prison last fall. Chen angered authorities after documenting forced late-term abortions and sterilisations and other abuses in his rural community and was sent to prison in 2006.

It was the first word from Chen, one of China`s best-known activists, since his release. His case was one of the few mentioned by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in a speech shortly before Chinese President Hu Jintao`s visit to Washington last month.

The video circulated among a number of Chen`s supporters before it was released online, and China Human Rights Defenders said it is believed the beating was in response to that.

The hour-long video gives a look inside a ring of security that officials meant to be impenetrable. Chen, a blind, self-taught lawyer, stands inside his family`s modest home and describes what he says the central government has directed: a 22-person team that watches his house around the clock; gadgets placed in neighbouring houses to block cell phone calls; a ban on leaving the home that allows only his 76-year-old mother to buy food.

"I have come out of a small jail and walked into a bigger jail," Chen says in the video.

In the video, Yuan talks softly about her concerns for their two young children and breaks down in tears. "I don`t dare speak loudly," she says.

"Soft detention" is a common tactic used by the Chinese government to intimidate activists, with some essentially put under house arrest for years. One of the most recent cases is of Liu Xia, the wife of last year`s jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. She has been unreachable since shortly after her husband won the prize in mid-October.

In the video, Chen and his wife say security officials seem to be trying to push the family into doing something that could get Chen arrested again.

China Human Rights Defenders said Chen and Yuan were beaten by state security officers from Linyi city and police from Shuanghou town in the eastern province of Shandong.

Bureau Report