By: Daniel McElroy
In an extension of past mistreatment, jailed Chinese activist and performance artist Chen Yunfei has reportedly spent weeks wearing manacles and leg irons after a sarcastic comment he made to prison officials. This experience follows an already contested imprisonment as well as past mistreatment in state custody.
Chen, who received a four year prison sentence last March, was forced to wear extra shackles for extended periods of time after having sarcastically yelled “Our leaders are great!” at the head of the detention facility where he is being held while he awaits appeal.
Legal challenges began for Chen in March 2015, when he performed an art piece in which he swept the grave of a victim of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest massacre. He was then charged with “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” but not sentenced until earlier this year. It has been widely noted that this particular charge has increasingly been used to target peaceful dissidents who oppose the ruling Communist Party.
At his trial in March 2017, Chen appeared wearing pajama pants in a satirical response to President Xi Jinping’s infamous slogan “the Chinese dream.” He also flashed the victory symbol in the courtroom. At the time of sentencing, Chen’s lawyer stated that they were disappointed with the four year sentence, as they had hoped for five or ten years in hopes that the government would take fewer political prisoners this way.
Chen has been the target of arbitrary detention and harassment by police for years due to his frequent activism surrounding the Tiananmen massacre, which is officially banned by the Chinese government. After his initial arrest it was reported that he already had been forced to wear extra shackles after refusing to say the proper greeting to prison guards, though these appear to have been removed more quickly than in the current situation.
This is only the latest in a string of cases involving mistreatment of Chinese political prisoners of conscience.