Freedom Eludes Chinese Lawyer Cheng Guangcheng After Prison

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It's been five days since blind Chinese rights activist Chen Guangcheng was released from prison, but life for him and his family is anything but free. Authorities in eastern Shandong province have placed him and his family under house arrest and 24-hour surveillance—even stopping him from getting medical treatment.

Blind rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng returned to his home in eastern Shandong province last Thursday (September 9) after completing a four-year prison term. But since his release, authorities have placed him under house arrest.

[Jiang Tianyong, Chinese Human Rights Lawyer]:
Authorities have warned him that not only is he not allowed to leave home, if he makes contact with the outside by telephone, they'll send him back to jail. They told him this would be easy to do. The authorities want to cut off access to them, and hope people would stop contacting them. If anything happened to them, we wouldn't know about it.

Chen told Radio Free Asia that he was severely beaten in jail in 2007. He is also suffering from severe diarrhea after a food poisoning incident in prison. On Sunday, Chen said authorities are stopping him from leaving home to get medical treatment. Chen's wife has also been barred from leaving their home to go grocery shopping.

Those who've tried to contact Chen say local authorities have set up extensive surveillance around his neighborhood, and his family's cell phones have been blocked.

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Chen Guangcheng is a blind self-taught lawyer, and began defending the rights of farmers and the disabled in 1998. He then represented women who were forced to have late-term abortions and sterilization under the Chinese regime's one-child policy.

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Rights advocates around the world have condemned the Chinese regime's treatment of Chen, and are calling on authorities to guarantee Chen's personal freedom now that he's been released from prison.

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