China on Friday prevented the wife of a blind, jailed activist from going to the Philippines to collect a human rights award on his behalf by revoking her passport. Police detained her at the airport. The Manila-based Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation named Chen Guangcheng as one of seven winners this year, citing his “irrepressible passion for justice in leading ordinary Chinese citizens to assert their legitimate rights under the law”. Chen was jailed for four years and three months last year for disrupting traffic and damaging property, charges his wife, Yuan Weijing, and critics say were concocted by officials angry at his exposure of forced late-term abortions in his hometown in Shandong . province.
“They said that her passport was not valid,” said Yuan’s friend and fellow activist Zeng Jinyan. “But that’s not the case. She was able to check in with no problem.”
Yuan’s telephone was turned off.
Zeng’s husband and fellow activist Hu Jia told Reuters he later received a very brief phone call from Yuan saying that she had been “kidnapped”, was hiding in a women’s toilet and was unable to say where she was. “I suddenly heard the sound of somebody knocking on the door, and then the phone went dead,” Hu said. “This is the work of the Public Security Ministry — China’s Gestapo.”
The ministry declined to comment. The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation said in a statement that it regretted that Chen was unable to come to Manila to receive his prize and that Yuan was also unable to accept on his behalf.
But it added that the foundation was a non-political organization, saying “we respect every country’s authority and its decisions with regard to the travel of its citizens”.
Police earlier accosted and briefly detained a small group of foreign reporters who had gone to Hu and Zeng’s house in Beijing, where Yuan was staying.
Officers tried to seize film and stopped Hu from driving Yuan to the airport.
Yuan told Reuters before setting off that the foreign affairs office in Linyi, near her home, had called late on Thursday night to tell her the passport had been revoked.
“But my passport very obviously is valid until March 2008. Moreover, I already have my visa,” she said. “There is no reason to revoke it.”
Yuan said the Shandong government did not want her leaving the country to tell foreigners about abuses her husband was trying to combat.
“They have done illegal things,” she said. “They don’t want it to be spoken about.
“I actually really admire the Shandong government for making so much effort that they can mobilize the Beijing public security bureau,” Yuan added sarcastically.