Video of blind activist surfaces in China

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A blind Chinese activist under house arrest since his release from prison in September has appeared in a video accusing the authorities of using "hooligan methods" to silence rights campaigners.

Chen Guangcheng, who gained worldwide fame for exposing abuses in China's "one-child" population policy, has not been heard from since he was freed five months ago after serving a four-year sentence.

He was jailed in 2006 after accusing family planning officials in the eastern province of Shandong of forcing women to have late-term abortions or be sterilised.

The hour-long video, obtained Wednesday by the US-based rights group China Aid from a person it said was a "reliable government source who is sympathetic to Chen’s cause", contains Chen's first public comments since his release.

"The conservative forces of the Communist Party have reached their worst point in openly ignoring the constitution and laws to crack down on villagers and activities aimed at defending rights," Chen said.

"They are using hooligan methods to provoke and make trouble (for us) -- they say we will beat you and beat you and the judicial departments will ignore it," added Chen, who was wearing dark glasses and a black jacket in the video.

Chen said three teams, each comprising 22 people, monitor his home 24 hours a day, following orders from the Communist Party and the secretive state security ministry. His mobile phone service has been cut off.

"I have come out of a small jail and gone into a bigger jail," he said.

Police also intimidate Chen's neighbours, calling him a "traitor" and a "counter-revolutionary," he said.

"Chen Guangcheng has been released, this is correct, but he can be put back (into prison) at anytime," Chen quoted police as saying.

"This is one party rule, it is very simple -- if we say you are guilty, you are guilty."

During the video, Chen's wife and child also call for the end of his house arrest, which they say is illegal.

Some of the footage shows a security agent peering over dried corn stalks into the windows of Chen's village home as part of their monitoring.

Chen, who is in his late 30s, remains unrepentant, vowing in the video to continue his fight to improve China's human rights situation.

Local police declined comment when contacted by AFP on Thursday.

Although he has no formal legal qualifications, Chen is what is known in China as a "barefoot" or self-taught lawyer. He has been blind since childhood.

He helped people seek legal redress over a wide variety of injustices, with corrupt officials a particular target.

Chen was convicted of "wilfully harming public property" and "gathering masses to disturb traffic order" -- charges that stemmed from a rally by supporters who were angry at police treatment of the activist.

Supporters scuffled with police during the rally outside Chen's home while he was under house arrest in early 2006. During his house arrest, Chen was allegedly beaten by police.

That same year, Chen was named by Time magazine as one of the world's 100 most influential people for his courage in exposing the abortion and sterilisation abuses.

He is a past recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, a human rights prize awarded to deserving activists in Asia.

Both the United States and the European Union have repeatedly urged Chinese leaders to end Chen's house arrest and restore his freedom of movement.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised his case in a speech last month ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit to Washington.

China Aid urged the international community to push Beijing to end Chen's house arrest and expressed its "grave concern over the escalating tendency of the government to adopt mafia practices".

"We cannot believe that China is serious about the rule of law when Chen Guangcheng... and other rights advocates are jailed, disappeared, or harassed," China Aid president Bob Fu said.

The video can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2YB2EjRZso. YouTube is officially blocked in China, but many people access the video-sharing site via proxy servers.