US Expresses Concern Over Detained Chinese Lawyer

BEIJING (AP) - The United States says it is concerned about the continuing house arrest of a Chinese activist lawyer and his family after a secretly made video about their life under surveillance was released online last week.

Chen Guangcheng and his wife reportedly were beaten over the video's release, and reporters trying to reach Chen's village have been threatened. CNN on Wednesday showed footage of non-uniformed Chinese pushing its reporters away from an entrance to the village and throwing rocks as the reporters retreated.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday the U.S. urges the Chinese government "to immediately restore the personal liberties, including freedom of movement, of Chen and his family."

Chen, a self-taught lawyer who was blinded by a fever in infancy, has been under an unofficial house arrest since his release from prison last fall. "Soft detention" is a common intimidation tactic against Chinese activists, and some house arrests have lasted years.

He angered authorities after documenting forced late-term abortions and sterilizations and other abuses in his rural community, but was sentenced for instigating an attack on government offices and organizing a group of people to disrupt traffic, charges his supporters say were fabricated.

The video released last week by the U.S.-based China Aid Association, a Christian rights group, was the first word from Chen since his release.

"I have come out of a small jail and walked into a bigger jail," Chen says in the video.

His case was one of the few mentioned by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in a speech shortly before Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington last month.

China Human Rights Defenders, an international rights group, has said a reliable source told it that Chen and his wife, Yuan Weijing, were beaten in response to the video and were blocked from going to a hospital for treatment.

Chinese officials have not commented on Chen and his family, and the group's claims could not be independently verified.

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Associated Press reporter Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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