Supporters of civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng, who is under a stringent form of house arrest with his family in Linyi, Shandong, have found creative ways to draw attention to his case. Last year, numerous activists traveled to Linyi in an attempt to visit Chen and were turned away, and occasionally beaten or detained by local officials or their hired thugs in the process. According to journalist Rachel Beitarie, people are still visiting Chen but more quietly now:
@MalcolmMoore ppl have tried to visit. In small #’s& with no media attention but there were visitors
— Rachel Beitarie (@Bendilaowai) March 2, 2012
But Chen remains under house arrest and his ill health has reportedly been deteriorating. On her China Law and Policy blog, Elizabeth Lynch writes:
Chen, a blind, self-taught lawyer in rural China who blazed the way for China’s nascent disability rights law is currently under unlawful house arrest with his wife and two small children, guarded 24 hours a day by local thugs, denied access to medical care as well as to all visitors and at times subject to physical abuse.
While this has been the status quo for Chen and his family since September 2010, the situation has just become more dire. Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), a well-respected China human rights group, reported last week that a sympathetic guard informed CHRD that Chen has grown increasingly ill, collapsing after walking only a few steps in his yard. Chen suffers from severe gastroenteritis, a condition left untreated while he served an unjust four-year-and three-month prison term and that still remains untreated even though he is “free.”
Activists are now changing tactics and developing a global online movement to show support for the beleaguered Chen. The Telegraph reports:
Mr Chen’s supporters have changed tack, creating an artistic and subversive campaign designed to “go viral” over the internet. More than 4,000 of the bumper stickers have been handed out. Spray-painted graffiti of Mr Chen has begun to pop in Chinese cities.
A flash mob of romantic couples, all wearing sunglasses like Mr Chen’s, appeared at the beginning of December in the main square in Linyi, unsettling the police enough to result in a group detention.
Helium-filled balloons printed with Mr Chen’s face have been released around his village and a blind musician, Zhou Yunpeng, has written a protest song. Each day, new photographs are posted on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, of people with his initials, CGC, written on their bodies or posing with pictures of Mr Chen.
“The police do not notice the stickers,” said Pearl. “And if they ask what Free GCC means, we say it is free KFC,” she added.
The online campaign includes a site which collects photos of Chen’s image in various locations around the world. Read much more about Chen Guangcheng and the activists who support him via CDT.