By Yining Su
Image credit: @jollino.
An activist in Guangdong claims that his disabled 8 year old stepson has been kept imprisoned in a “black jail” for the past four years. However, some netizens are raising doubts about the story, and instead accuse the man of abandoning the child.
In a story that went viral on Weibo over the weekend, Chen Fengqiang, a land activist in Zhuhai, Guangdong, claimed that his stepson, Chen Ya, was recently released after being held in a black jail since the boy was four. Chen Fengqiang claimed that the boy had been a “genius” before he was imprisoned, but was now “mentally disabled”.
Local government authorities in Jinwan have released a statement that pushes a counter-narrative. The government’s statement claims that Chen Ya was born with cerebral palsy. After Chen was arrested in Beijing in 2009 for protesting government seizure of his land and sentenced to a three year prison term, his three children, two biological and one the son of his girlfriend, Wei Fen, were taken in by community social workers. After Chen was released in 2012, he had a chance to take his children back, the statement alleges, but chose to take only his biological, able-bodied children, leaving his disabled stepson behind.
According to Offbeat China, some netizens have found Chen’s versions of events suspicious, as he has never mentioned his campaign to get the boy back until earlier this month, despite using his Weibo account for his land activism for a year. Additionally, one netizen found a Tianyan post by Chen. According to Offbeat China:
In the post, Chen said that the boy was born with developmental problems and blamed local government for trying to push the boy to his care.
Neither side seems to be quite telling the whole truth. I don’t believe that Chen was campaigning hard to get Chen Ya back but it’s equally hard to believe the local governments’ claims of selflessly looking after the children.
Here are some facts we can take away from this, however:
- The imprisonment of activists’ children alongside their parents is not unheard of, in China. According to the Telegraph, Human Rights Watch has interviewed three former black jail detainees who say that they had been imprisoned alongside children.
- There isn’t enough awareness about disabilities in China. In many discussions of this case, the boy is described as “mentally” disabled. If it is true he has cerebral palsy, then he is not mentally disabled, but physically disabled. People with cerebral palsy have the same mental capabilities as able-bodied people.
- The boy’s mother, Wei Fen, is still missing.