Two months before Chen Guangcheng dramatically escaped from illegal house arrest in Shandong Province, activist and legal advocate Feng Zhenghu was put under similar illegal detention in his home in Shanghai.
Feng, 57, is considered a hero among Shanghai petitioners and activists for his eventual successful return to China from Japan in February 2010 after staying in the Narita International Airport for more than three months while he repeatedly tried to fly back to Shanghai only to be denied re-entry. Since his return to Shanghai, Feng has faced constant pressure and harassment from the police: he’s been summoned for questioning numerous times, put under soft detention, involuntarily disappeared, and at other times pressured to go on “trips” with the police.
Beginning on February 27 of this year, more than a dozen plainclothes police officers from the Shanghai Public Security Bureau have been guarding Feng’s residential building and preventing him from leaving his apartment, even to buy groceries. His relatives, friends, and supporters also have been prevented from visiting him. In one instance, officers physically harassed Feng to force him back into his apartment when he simply tried to step outside; the incident caused injuries to Feng’s back and legs, but police did not allow him to go to the hospital to seek medical treatment. His phone has been tapped, cell phone confiscated, and his internet connection cut off. Shanghai petitioners and activists who have tried to visit Feng and bring him food and other daily necessities have been harassed and intimidated.
“The illegal house arrest of Feng, similar to the treatment that Chen Guangcheng was subjected to, says that this form of persecution is certainly not unique to Shandong. Without any publicly known investigation underway by Chinese authorities of Shandong officials’ abuses of Chen Guangcheng and his family, this type of arbitrary detention will continue and spread,” said Renee Xia, international director of CHRD.
Relying on supporters for his food and other daily necessities while under house arrest, Feng has been using a rope to pull food and other items up to the balcony of his third-floor apartment. He can only wave from there to his supporters, many of whom are petitioners who themselves have sought redress for rights violations with Feng’s assistance. Those supporting Feng have protested his illegal house arrest at the Shanghai Municipal People’s Congress, the municipal government, the Shanghai High People’s Court, and other government bodies, but to no avail. Authorities in Shanghai have not filed any criminal charges against Feng nor produced any legal documentation justifying his house arrest.
In recent years, Feng has become a leading voice among activists and petitioners in Shanghai. He has provided legal advice and organized Shanghai petitioners to petition the National People’s Congress and gather at local courts and the Supreme People’s Court in Beijing to demand that their administrative lawsuits against corrupt officials and government agencies be heard in courts.
While Chen Guangcheng’s extralegal house arrest may have been unique in its length and intensity, other activists like Feng Zhenghu as well as their family members continue to suffer from similar forms of arbitrary detention and retaliation for their activism. In 2011, CHRD documented 163 incidences of “soft detention”, which includes its extreme form of application known as illegal house arrest, of human rights defenders (HRDs), and it is suspected that the number is far higher. Chinese Human Rights Defenders