HONG KONG—Chinese rights activist Chen Guangcheng has described being grabbed and forced into the back of a vehicle by unidentified men, taken to a hotel, and threatened with spying charges because he revealed abuses of rural women in the name of family planning policy.
Chen, who is blind, described being detained in Beijing by officials from his home city of Linyi, in the eastern province of Shandong, after fleeing to the capital to escape surveillance and threats at his home.
“They dragged me into the car, and my legs were hurt in quite a few places. Some of them pulled my hair and banged my head onto the wheel and hit my face and head. My nose still has two places which are hurt,” Chen, 34, told RFA’s Mandarin service.
“Then I was trying to shout, but one of them squeezed my neck with his arm, stopping me from shouting out,” he told RFA reporter Ding Xiao. “At that moment, I didn’t even dare to swallow. About twice I passed out.”
Chen said his requests for medical attention were refused, and he was taken to a hotel and visited the next morning by the head of the Linyi public security bureau and the city’s deputy mayor.
“The main purpose was to threaten me. He said, ‘You have revealed news information to foreign media and have been suspected of violating Article 111 of Chinese criminal law: illegally providing intelligence to foreign countries, for which the maximum sentence is life in prison. The minimum you can get is 5-10 years.’”
Officials then called in his family to persuade him to give up his activism. “But then—I don’t know why—at a little after 6 o’clock in the evening, [they] abruptly let me go,” Chen told RFA.
The deputy mayor said the reason for Chen’s abduction was to protect him from “being used by the foreign media.”
“They don’t care about what the truth is. They just won’t allow any reporting. I think this is an issue of freedom of speech,” Chen said.
“But if what you say is true, no matter where you say it, it’s still the truth.”
Chen was 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 last month.
His writings, which blew the whistle of the use of forced abortions and other abuses in Linyi city and his home county of Yinan, were widely distributed on the Internet and read by many in China.
Chen was detained in Beijing Sept. 7. His lawyer Teng Biao called the police to report his disappearance, and was told that the “kidnappers” were police officers from Linyi city. “They didn’t show any identification, and they didn’t enter into any legal process,” Teng said.
A Chinese grass-roots advocacy group, the Chinese Rights Defenders (CRD), said his detention was illegal.
“The CRD condemns Shandong public security’s actions in violating the relevant articles in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, and Chinese criminal law, which pledge to protect Chinese citizens’ basic human rights,” the group said in a statement carried on its Web site.
“CRD demands the immediate release of Mr. Chen Guangcheng and requests an investigation by the Ministry of Public Security, seeking accountability for the unlawful kidnapping and mistreatment of Mr. Chen,” said the group.
Chen’s lawyer Teng Biao called the Beijing police after Chen was seized. He told RFA’s Cantonese service: “They didn’t produce any identification, nor did they enter into any legal process.”
Teng said the Linyi municipal authorities sent people after Chen once they realized he had slipped through a security cordon outside his house and arrived in Beijing.
Chen’s wife, Yuan Weijing, said the Linyi municipal government had lured Chen out of his hiding place by persuading her father he could help the situation.
“They are now near our family home watching us,” Yuan told RFA’s Cantonese service Wednesday. “There are police vehicles and seven or eight officers. There are also officials from our local county government. They are there round the clock, and they change shifts every six hours.”
An official who answered the telephone at the Yinan county public security bureau near Chen’s home said he didn’t know anything about the situation.
Original reporting in Cantonese by Lillian Cheung and in Mandarin by Ding Xiao. RFA Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie and edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.