Activist Disappears at Beijing Airport

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A troubling update to our earlier posts about Yuan Weijing, the wife of jailed blind activist Chen Guangcheng. When last we visited her in July, Yuan –who was effectively under house arrest in her home province of Shandong– had evaded her guards and traveled to Beijing where she and her two year old daughter put up at the apartment of fellow activists Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan. Police soon camped out outside the apartment complex and physically prevented Yuan when she attempted to go to the U.S. Embassy to meet with a human rights officer. Fearful of being kidnapped and forcibly taken back home as her husband was two years earlier, Yuan holed up inside the apartment.

The thirty-one year old English teacher finally decided to test the waters today by traveling to the airport to catch a plane to the Philippines, where she was to accept the prestigious 2007 Ramon Magsayay Award for Emergent Leadership. (In naming Chen, the Magsaysay board said it was recognizing his “irrepressible passion for justice in leading ordinary Chinese citizens to assert their legitimate rights under the law.” You can read our account of his travails here.)

Zeng told us that she and her husband were with Yuan when she checked in for the flight this morning and waved goodbye to her when she entered the passenger-only security channel. She passed through customs around noon but then reported to them by phone that she had been detained by unknown security officers. There was no further contact until around three o’clock when Yuan called. “I have been kidnapped,” she said, “All my things have been taken.” After repeating herself, Yuan was cut off and further attempts to reach her were fruitless.

Zeng and her husband said they tried to report a kidnapping at the airport police station but officers were reluctant to do so and would only accept a missing person report. “Even though I have no fantasy about this government,” Zeng told us by phone, “at least I thought it had to abide by the law. I had some hope in their decency.”