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Wife of Jailed “Barefoot Lawyer” Chen Guangcheng Addresses Open Letter to President Hu Jintao

July 23, 2008

Watching the Olympic torch pass through Linyi City, Shandong Province on July 21, Yuan Weijing (袁伟静) composed an open letter to President Hu Jintao, calling on him to remember the plight of her husband, jailed “barefoot lawyer” Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚) and lamenting that she and her daughter remain under constant surveillance. In her letter released to Human Rights in China this week, Yuan describes her deep sense of isolation, even as state media and the nation celebrate the approach of the Olympic Games.

“Yuan Weijing's courageous voice as a wife and mother stands as a stark reminder of the harsh reality behind Beijing's 'harmonious' Olympic makeover,” said Human Rights in China Executive Director Sharon Hom. “The rights of Yuan and her family, and countless other individuals like them, risk being overlooked and trampled upon amid the authorities' final dash toward the Beijing Games.”

In her letter, Yuan states that authorities have quadrupled the security detail assigned to monitor her from ten to forty guards for the duration of the Beijing Olympics. While her daughter remains at home, her son currently lives with her parents, and the guards prevent her from visiting the three of them.

Chen, 37, a blind, “barefoot lawyer” and activist imprisoned two years ago, fought for numerous rural causes, including farmers’ rights. Chen came under official scrutiny when he exposed abuses in implementation of the one-child policy in Linyi City, Shandong Province. Prior to his detention on June 10, 2006, he had been repeatedly assaulted and harassed by police. He was sentenced to four years and three months’ imprisonment on August 19, 2006, for “intentional damage of property” and “organizing people to block traffic.” Chen has suffered abuse in prison and is reportedly in poor health.

“I am hopeful that you, President Hu, along with our nation’s other leaders, will be able to see the truth I have expressed in this pre-Olympics letter, and that you will gain an understanding of the humiliation and helplessness of my everyday life,” wrote Yuan. “I hope that our nation’s leaders will respectfully listen to an imprisoned blind man’s worries about whether our country will rise or fall, succeed or fail. Chen Guangcheng hopes that the people can live together harmoniously in a nation ruled by law, rather than be destroyed in a nation ruled by men.”

  • For more on HRIC’s Incorporating Responsibility 2008 campaign for Chen Guangcheng, see “About the Individual: Chen Guangcheng,” February 2008, http://www.ir2008.org/02/about.php.

The full text of Yuan’s letter is as follows:


Yuan Weijing’s Open Letter to China’s Leader Hu Jintao

President Hu Jintao:

Today, July 21, is not only my daughter Chen Kesi’s third birthday, but also the day the Olympic torch reaches the city of Linyi, only 50 kilometers from my hometown. The jubilation and excitement of China winning the Olympic bid seven years ago, however, is no longer present.

I once believed the Olympics would give the people of China a sense of pride and happiness, and allow the world to see how greatly China has been transformed by its rapid economic growth. I now feel only extreme disappointment.

Because of the Olympics’ approach, people like me -- nothing but a rights defender’s wife -- are being specially “protected” by the government. The number of guards watching me has multiplied from around ten to over forty. They have surrounded my home and are posted throughout our village. The guards do not allow me to visit my imprisoned husband, my parents who raised me, my son who is under my parents’ care, or even my dentist. All I am able to do is let the guards follow me as I carry a basket to the village market to buy food. Furthermore, those forty-something guards who limit my freedom do not even have the authority to enforce the law; they are merely hired “loiterers.” If these types of unlawful behavior occurred in a country under the rule of law, I would not tolerate it. But in the current situation, I can only wait as I have already experienced the measures taken by local public security officials against me and know the result of confronting them.

On July 11, when my family visited Chen Guangcheng, he said, “The Yang Jia incident in Shanghai worries me. If the government continues to be unreasonable and does not use lawful measures to resolve issues, violence and social disturbances will ensue. It seems like what I have been worried about has already happened. You will need to find a way to inform the leaders of the central government, especially President Hu Jintao, and hope that they can talk to rights defenders directly to resolve issues through reasonable and lawful channels. If those who enforce the law continue to conceal the truth and use violence to repress people just to save face, rather than deal with matters lawfully, I am afraid that our great and kind nation will face a disaster. A country with no freedom of the press, no independent judiciary, and no competitive multiparty political system has no hope.”

I was uncertain whether to honor Chen Guangcheng’s request [that I forward his words to the central government leaders], for our family has endured many forms of unfair treatment because of Guangcheng. We have written letters to our nation’s leaders, including you, President Hu, but I remain under illegal house arrest. Our nation’s leaders are more aware of these issues than even we are.

I am hopeful that you, President Hu, along with our nation’s other leaders, will be able to see the truth I have expressed in this pre-Olympics letter, and that you will gain an understanding of the humiliation and helplessness of my everyday life. I hope that our nation’s leaders will respectfully listen to an imprisoned blind man’s worries about whether our country will rise or fall, succeed or fail. Chen Guangcheng hopes that the people can live together harmoniously in a nation ruled by law, rather than be destroyed in a nation ruled by men.

I, like the people of this nation, am looking forward to the Olympics’ arrival, and I hope for their success. At the same time, however, I am even more looking forward to the Olympics’ end. I hope for the earliest possible release of my innocent husband, Chen Guangcheng, so he can be reunited with his family. I hope that I will soon be able to enjoy the freedom and rights to which I am entitled.

Yuan Weijing, a person under house arrest

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