By Jessica Cohen, 03/01/13
For the Gazette
The Port Jervis Common Council meeting on Monday had an unexpected celebratory moment when Celia Ou, a Chinese immigrant now living in Port Jervis, announced that her brother-in-law, Chen Ruichang, had been freed from a Chinese prison, where he had been held without charges.
A deputy chief of the editor-in-chief’s office at Guangdong Province television station, he had last been seen on Nov. 4, as Ou told the Common Council soon after his disappearance.
She said his arrest was likely related to his practice of Falun Gong, a form of meditation, since many practitioners have been persecuted in China.
Ou said Ruichang’s son had been repeatedly asking Chinese police to explain the imprisonment. And she said media attention generated by articles in the Gazette about him and Chinese refugees in Port Jervis may have contributed to pressure to release Ruichang. At least one article had been translated into Chinese and printed in the Chinese newspaper Epoch Times.
But what motivates the Chinese government can be difficult to determine.
“It’s always difficult to know why people are released,” James Zimmerman Jr. said when queried later. Zimmerman is a China specialist at Amnesty International USA, in San Diego. “Of course, we always like to think that letters and news articles do the trick. They certainly help the cause by keeping the prisoner’s name in public view.”
Ou has meanwhile been gathering signatures for a petition against human organ harvesting in China. She says many people in New York City have also been collecting signatures, accumulating 28,000 to send to the White House.
“Now Chinese politicians claim they won’t harvest organs,” Ou said. “Once they’re exposed, there’s nowhere to hide.”
She said she was impressed by the interest and kindness of Port Jervians as she pursued signatures.