China Formally Arrests Blind Shandong Activist


2006-06-21
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Blind rights activist Chen Guangcheng. Photo: Gongmin Weiquan Wang. (www.gmwq.org)

HONG KONG—Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong have formally arrested activist Chen Guangcheng on charges of disturbing social stability, his wife said.

Chen’s wife Yuan Weijing, who is also under tight surveillance at the family home in Yinan county, said she was handed a letter informing her that the state prosecutor’s office had approved his formal arrest on suspicion of disrupting traffic and destroying property.

I’m worried that he signed a confession under duress. I’m worried about what is happening to him.

“His formal arrest has been approved by the procuratorate, with effect from June 21 at 1700 hours,” Yuan told RFA’s Mandarin service.

“I am very worried by this, because Guangcheng knew they had nothing on him for these two charges, and they couldn’t find evidence to support them. So I’m worried that he signed a confession under duress. I’m worried about what is happening to him,” she said.

Lawyers under pressure

Chen, who has officially sanctioned status as a blind citizen, is a prominent activist who has documented villagers' claims of forced abortions and sterilizations in Shandong, angering local officials.

An official who answered the phone at the Yinan county police station said she didn’t know anything about Chen’s case.

Chen’s Beijing-based legal team, who were harassed and beaten on their last trip to the county, said they would travel there immediately to begin gathering evidence with which to defend him.

“We must definitely go and talk to people who understand the situation in the right places,” lawyer Li Jingsong said. “We are going to launch a thorough investigation of our own into those two charges.”

Li said he expected further trouble on arrival in Yinan county. Over the weekend, 10 to 20 unidentified local residents forced the lawyers—who were on their way to visit Yuan—and a taxi driver from the car, pushed them around, and stole the taxi's license plate.

Meanwhile, Teng Biao, a law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, said he received a visit from national security police based in the capital, suggesting that the momentum for Chen’s arrest came from high up in the government.

“Some people from the university and the national security police came to have a ‘chat’ with me when it was almost midnight Friday evening...to talk about a T-shirt with Chen Guangcheng's picture on it. They told me not to wear it, and that I should hand it over to them,” Teng told Hong Kong-based reporter Ding Xiao.

Mother, son kidnapped

“I refused, but they threatened to terrify my wife and child, so I gave it to them...I had planned to wear it in public, so everyone would know,” he said.

Last week, Shandong police snatched Chen’s elderly mother and three-year-old son from Beijing and brought them back to house arrest near their hometown.

Chen first ran afoul of the authorities last summer after he exposed human rights abuses by family planning officials.

His writings, which blew the whistle on 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.

He has reported being abducted in Beijing and beaten by unidentified thugs on two occasions in the past year.

A spokeswoman for international rights group Amnesty International in Hong Kong said the group had been following Chen’s case with concern.

“We are very concerned about Chen Guangcheng’s case and have been following it up through various channels all the way...We have passed on information on his case to a number of organizations, including the United Nations Human Rights Commission,” Yan Chen told RFA’s Cantonese service.

“I think that this will increase the level of international concern regarding Chen’s case,” she said.

Original reporting in Cantonese by Grace Kei Lai-see and in Mandarin by Zhang Min and 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.

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