A blind Chinese social activist who blew the whistle on official abuses under China’s one-child policy was beaten by local officials Tuesday. The incident took place in the eastern province of Shandong. Also lawyers who were trying to mediate the issue with local government were beaten by unidentified thugs. This report came from Radio Free Asia (RFA), after local residents and lawyers told their stories.
A local resident of Dongshigu village told RFA’s Mandarin service that the blind activist, Chen Guangcheng, was left bleeding on the main street of Dongshigu village where he lives, after clashes between villagers and local officials.
Chen Guangcheng is effectively under house arrest and is not allowed to leave.
The incidents took place after three out-of-town lawyers – Xu Zhiyong, Li Subin, and Li Fangping, arrived to meet with Chen. Their aim was to mediate between the activist and local authorities, an eyewitness told RFA.
20 fellow villagers from Yinan County, near Shandong’s Linyi City, who support the blind Chen Guangcheng escorted him from his home to the point where the lawyers had been prevented from entering the village. Approximatelt 60 people, including government officials were waiting there.
An RFA reporter learned that Chen Guangcheng suffered several injuries, including bleeding from a number of cuts, an injury to his leg, and one of his teeth was loose.
“Chen Guangcheng was bleeding from several cuts and injuries to his arms, and also sustained an injury to his leg,” a Dongshigu villager surnamed Chen told RFA reporter Ding Xiao.
“One of his teeth was loose, too. The government officials refused to take him to seek medical attention, but they sent a doctor to get his blood pressure checked,” said the villager, who saw Chen shortly after the attack.
Chen’s Beijing-based lawyer, Teng Biao, said the three lawyers were only able to see Chen for only a few minutes before they were taken away by local judicial officials. Although the lawyers were able to speak to the officials, and they tried to mediate between Chen and family planning authorities, they were unsuccessful.
RFA reported that they spoke to Teng Biao in Beijing soon after he spoke to the three lawyers by telephone. “They got back to the village at around 4:30 p.m. They were on the main street around 300 meters from Chen’s house, when they were grabbed by a group of unidentified men and beaten up.”
“Li Fangping narrowly escaped being thrown in the river, and was pinned to the ground while others set upon him. Some his attackers looked as if they had just drunk a lot of alcohol. Xu Zhiyong was also pushed to the ground and beaten,” Teng said.
“At 5:28 p.m., they were all taken to the nearby township police station. At the moment, they are still in Shuanghou Township police station. They said things looked pretty dangerous because there are a lot of people in the village who look like gangsters.”
Chen is becoming widely known for exposing violence against women by Linyi municipal authorities in pursuit of family planning targets under China’s one-child policy, with his work against forced abortions and sterilizations featured in the Washington Post in August.
Chen shone a light on the use of forced abortions and other abuses in Linyi city and his home county of Yinan. His writing about this issue was widely distributed on the Internet and were read by many people in China.
When RFA interviewed a township-level family planning official from Linyi earlier this year (2005), the official admitted that “illegal actions” had taken place in pursuit of draconian population targets.
“If people have more than the allotted number of children it affects the overall family planning results. Here in Shandong, each level of government has responsibility for overseeing the level below it … From the city level upwards, you start getting fines for exceeding the target,” the official said.
The family planning official told RFA that village officials were pressured by the system of fines and quotas had led to beatings in the past, but denied that violence was sanctioned at every level of the family planning bureaucracy.
RFA reported: “Chen fled harassment by Yinan officials last month, hiding at a friend’s house in Beijing, before being abducted for 38 hours by unidentified officials and taken back to Yinan. He was threatened with spying charges for his role in highlighting abuses in the region, but was later released.”
Thanks to Radio Free Asia for providing the information used in this story. The original reporting was in Mandarin by Ding Xiao. It was translated into English by Luisetta Mudie, and edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.