Source AP ©

Wife of jailed China activist to accept award on his behalf

Even though police’s rejection the wife of an imprisoned Chinese activist said Thursday she hopes to fly to the Philippines to accept an award on his behalf.

Yuan Weijing said a friend had obtained a Philippine visa for her and said she hoped to pick up her passport at Beijing airport on Friday before catching a flight to Manila.

However, Yuan said officers were blocking her from leaving the suburban Beijing apartment complex where she has been staying with friends who themselves are under house arrest.

"I haven't done anything wrong, so I'll give it a try, and if they stop me then it's not my problem," Yuan told The Associated Press in an interview at the apartment.

"Under the law, I'm 100 percent entitled to go," Yuan said.

Yuan hopes to accept a Magsaysay Award, Asia's version of the Nobel Prize, on behalf of her husband, Chen Guangcheng, a self-trained lawyer who helped farmers with grievances file court cases.

Chen, who is blind, was sentenced to four years in prison in 2006 after he documented cases of forced abortions and other abuses by local family planning officials in his native province of Shandong in eastern China.

Yuan said Chen was told about his award by his brother during a prison visit last week.

"He told the guard right away, 'I'm going to the Philippines,' but the guard said, 'That's not what I heard,"' Yuan said with a smile.

Yuan called the prize a great honor, but said it was not clear whether it would help him gain release.

"This prize shows Guangcheng is recognized internationally ... The world is saying that Guangcheng is right, but at the local level they have long been operating outside the rules, so I can't say whether this prize will advance his cause or reverse it," Yuan said.

China's communist leaders have long sought to prevent government critics from accepting international honors, but have sometimes relented in cases of extreme international pressure.

However, the Philippines has little influence with Beijing and has been steadily seeking better relations with the regional economic giant.

The award was to be presented Aug. 31 in Manila.

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