Two elderly Chinese women were sentenced to a year in a reeducation camp on the same day it was learned that two Philadelphia-area men were arrested by Chinese authorities for their involvement in protests in Beijing over China's treatment of Tibet, according to the wife of one man.
Brian Conley, 28, of West Philadelphia, and Jeffrey Rae, 28, of Wayne, Delaware County, went to China hoping to videotape protests staged by Students for a Free Tibet, according to Conley's wife, Eowyn A. Rieke. (See Conley's video blog at Alive in Baghdad.)
"We knew that the Chinese government is extremely repressive and that they might respond to any effort to get the word out about Tibet strongly," said Rieke, who is a doctor. She is 31 weeks pregnant with what will be her first child. "So I have been stressed and worried, but overall, in the context of things, what he is experiencing is pretty minor compared to what many people have at the hands of the Chinese government."
Rieke said she received a text message from her husband reading: "In jail all fine." When asked, Rieke said she was a bit surprised that Conley could send a text message from his phone while jailed, but she was still glad to get word that he was alive.
Rae's father, William, said yesterday he had not heard from his son in 48 hours and was informed of his detention by Students for a Free Tibet. William Rae said he spoke with officials with the U.S. Embassy and the State Department as well as Sens. Arlen Specter and Bob Casey.
"I think this is going to work out, assuming it is the Chinese police that have him," he said.
Meanwhile, the Chinese women had applied for permission to protest - a process the human-rights group said was fraudulent because no requests were approved and some of the applicants were arrested.
Li Xuehui, the son of one of the women, told the Associated Press that no cause was given for the order to imprison his 79-year-old mother, Wu Dianyuan, and her neighbor Wang Xiuying, 77.