A Chinese prison on Thursday released Chen Guangcheng [HRW case timeline, JURIST news archive], a blind Chinese human rights legal activist who has finished serving a four-year sentence [JURIST report] for damaging property and "organizing a mob to disturb traffic." According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website], the Chinese authorities have since placed Chen under house arrest and increased surveillance of his home and family, bringing into question the authenticity of his release [press release]. Family members allege that Chen suffers from health problems caused by mistreatment he received while in prison, including beatings and repeated food poisonings [WP report]. Chen claims the charges were retribution for his documentation of forced sterilizations and abortions [TIME feature] performed by Chinese officials to enforce China's one-child policy.
China's questionable human rights record has recently received international attention. In July, HRW charged that Chinese authorities used excessive force [JURIST report] in responding to the 2008 Tibetan demonstrations [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and tortured those in custody following the demonstrations in violation of international law. A week earlier, New York-based human rights group Human Rights in China (HRIC) [advocacy website] released documents that suggested that Chinese Internet regulators have plans to drastically reduce internet anonymity [JURIST report] by requiring users to use their real names when posting on certain Chinese websites. In May, two Chinese human rights lawyers who have represented Falun Gong [group website; BBC backgrounder] defendants were permanently disbarred [JURIST report] after being accused of disrupting courtrooms. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] criticized the disbarment hearing [press release], calling it "absurd" and claiming that "[g]overnment authorities in China continue to harass and disrupt the work of lawyers taking politically sensitive cases."