CRD Deplores Continued House Arrest of Chen Guangcheng

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CRD deplores continued house arrest of human rights activist and barefoot lawyer Cheng Guangcheng and abuses against villagers seeking to support him “They have detained and tortured villagers who opposed their family planning enforcement tactics. For almost a year now, they have used ill-treatment including tying a person to a chair, depriving him/her of sleep for as long as 90 hours and of food and even water as well. Beating is also common. These people have simply become inhuman.” – Chen Guangcheng (under strict house arrest for more than five months)

CRD deplores the five-month long arbitrary detention under so-called “residential surveillance” of Chen Guangcheng, condemns the violence police used last week and still threaten to use against villagers protesting his detention, and calls for an investigation into the alleged use of torture and ill treatment against villagers detained in these protests. Chen Guangcheng is being persecuted for his efforts to gain redress for human rights abuses, particularly in cases related to the implementation of population control policies. On February 2, 2006, Chen Hua, a neighbor and relative of Chen Guangcheng, protested about the unlawful detention of Chen Guangcheng to the security guards in front of the latter’s house hired by local officials to ensure he is not able to go out. In response, the guards assaulted Chen Hua, resulting in cuts on his head and bleeding from his nose and mouth. In the afternoon on February 4, 2005, two public security officers and two plain-clothes police went to Chen Hua’s house, according to his wife, taking him away for “questioning.” Chen Hua’s wife noted down the license plate number of the police car: “Shandong Q-0043.” For 3 days, Chen’s wife demanded that the authorities inform her of his whereabouts before she was finally told that he was being held under a 10-day administrative detention. He was detained at the Xishan Public Security Detention Centre at Yinan County, Yilin City, Shandong Province. No detention order was shown to him or his family. Chen is released on Sunday, 12 February, on condition that he would stop assisting Chen Guangcheng and leave the villager to look for migrant work in a few days and that his wife must turn her self in for smashing police cars. Chen Hua went on hunger strike for 3 days during his detention. Chen Hua was detained for 15 days in September 2005 for supporting Chen Guangcheng’s activities providing legal aid to victims of violence used in local birth control campaigns. On the evening of February 5, more than 200 villagers gathered at the village committee’s office to demand the release of Chen Hua and the lifting of Chen Guangcheng’s house arrest. Some angry villagers attacked two police vehicles. Police threw stones at villagers, causing several injuries, including to Du Dehai, who received a serious wound on his head and had to be hospitalized. After the clash, more police arrived at the village, East Shigu Village, Shuanghou Township, Yinan County, of Linyi City, Shandong Province. They checked villagers’ identities and wrote down their names. According to Chen Guangcheng, reached by phone by CRD, “police surrounded the village and controlled the area, some came into the village and ordered villagers to stay inside their houses. They recorded everyone’s name and questioned them about whether they had participated in the protest.” On February 8, Yinan County Public Security Bureau posted “An Open Letter to All Villagers” in the village (See Appendix 1), announcing that “So as to maintain order, Chen Hua has been subjected to legal penalties by this bureau for intentional destruction of public and private property.” The Public Security Bureau further accuses Chen Hua’s wife, Chen Dengju, and other villagers of destroying public property, chasing “militia members” (minbing) and government officials, and overturning police cars. The Bureau warns of “severe punishment by law” unless villagers “turn each other in,” “turn themselves in” and “confess their crimes.” However, according to villagers, the so-called “militia members” are guards temporarily hired by village officials to keep Chen Guangcheng under house arrest, and include under-age teens and elderly men, who apparently would not qualify to join the militia, members of which enjoy certain benefits and are regulated by the PRC Law on Military Service, which requires those serving as “militia members” to be between the ages of 18 and 35. Rather, they are casual security guards paid on a daily rate of 50 yuan a day. What they term “public property” included equipment (such as a sun-umbrella and hot water bottles) used by these guards, who were occupying Chen Guangcheng’s private property, his front yard, without the permission of Chen or his family. Villagers smashed windows of 3 police cars and pushed them into the ditch because police refused to drive to hospital injured villager Du Dehai and Chen Hua’s grandmother who had fainted while begging the officers on the scene to release her grandson, as no other vehicles were available due to bad weather. After the clash, authorities moved the “headquarters” in charge of confining Chen Guangcheng, to the neighboring Yinghou Village. The “headquarters” is reportedly directed by the township mayor, township party secretary, county party school president, county party secretary and party office director. (See Appendix 2, “List of Officials Responsible for Detaining and Harassing Chen Guangcheng” compiled by villagers) On February 13, around 11am, villagers reported that more than 70 police with riot-control gear entered East Shigu Village, looking for specific villagers who seem to be on a list. Villagers saw one villager, Chen Guangdong, being taken away in a police car. Police did not show any detention or arrest warrant, nor did they give the cause for the arrest. Police also went into villager Liu Changjun’s house to look for him. But Liu was not home. Chen Guangcheng has been under “residential surveillance” since September 6, 2005. His wife has also been prevented from leaving the house, and was once beaten when she came out to greet visitors. Their telephone line has been cut off and their computer confiscated. During the confusion of the clashes, Chen Guangcheng and his wife were able to sneak out to a neighbor’s house and used the phone. Since the evening of 8 February, that phone has also been cut off, and their cell phones have been jammed by interference devise. CRD demands the unconditional and immediate release of Chen Guangcheng. CRD calls for an independent and impartial investigation of local officials’ unlawful activities, in violation of the Chinese Constitution and international human rights standards, involving arbitrary detention, harassment, ill-treatment and torture, and violence used in enforcing birth control policies. The Chinese authorities should bring those responsible to justice and guarantee that Chen Guangcheng, a human rights defender, can carry out his activities without being subjected to further violations of his personal safety and freedom.

BACKGROUND Linyi officials used widespread violence in birth-control campaigns in 2004 and the spring of 2005, in violation of human rights, according to a June 2005 report issued by CRD, based on field work and villagers’ testimony. Local activist Chen Guangcheng tried to assist victims to seek legal redress through the courts, an initiative supported by CRD. As a consequence, Chen was harassed and monitored, and when he went to Beijing to seek legal assistance, he was kidnapped and then put under residential surveillance in September 2005. CRD protested against the ill treatment and arbitrary detention. CRD reported the case to the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in November 2005 in its report on the situation of human rights defenders in China, which was then expanded into the CRD report, “Hazardous Times for Human Rights Defenders,” which was publicly released in January 2006. Chen Guangcheng(陈光诚), male, 34, is a self-taught lawyer. Briefly kidnapped and detained on September 6, and since then put under house arrest by Shandong police for exposing family planning violence in Linyi and providing legal aid to villagers who were to take legal action regarding these abuses against local authorities.

Chen has a long history of campaigning for the rights of farmers and the disabled. Blind due to a high fever from the age of one, Chen was educated at home till he was 18, but then attended the Linyi Primary School for the Blind and then Qingdao School for the Blind. He assisted local villagers to solve drinking water pollution problem when he was attending Nanjing Chinese Medicine University in 2000. He created and ran the “Rights Defense Project for the Disabled” under the auspices of the Chinese Legal Studies Association between 2000 and 2001. Since 1996, he has provided free legal consultation to farmers and the disabled in rural areas. In 2003, he was sponsored by the “International Visitors Project” to visit the US. In 2004, he ran a “Citizen Awareness and Law for the Disabled Project” supported by NED and the Monica Fund.

Since March 2005, Chen has been assisting villagers in bringing legal action against the Linyi City authorities for alleged illegal activities in implementing government birth quotas. According to Linyi residents, in March 2005 the local government began forcing parents of two children to be sterilized and women pregnant with a third child to undergo abortions. Officials detained family members of those couples who fled, beat them and held them hostage. The villagers’ lawsuit was due to be heard on October 10, but the court date has been postponed several times. Only four villagers are reportedly still pressing forward with the lawsuit, while others have pulled out after being harassed, threatened, or bribed. Police also allegedly forced them to testify against Chen Guangcheng, saying that he fabricated the reports of abuses.

By the end of August, Chen had evaded police surrounding his village and went to Shanghai, then to Beijing, to seek help from lawyers. In Beijing, friends arranged for him to meet foreign journalists, diplomats, and international legal experts, to discuss the lawsuits. On September 6, he was detained in Beijing by police from Shandong Province, who took him back to Linyi and released him into house arrest the following day. Since then, his house has reportedly been surrounded by up to 30 men and many cars; his landline and mobile phone services have been cut off, and his computer has been seized. On October 4, law lecturer Xu Zhiyong, lawyer Li Fangping, and another lawyer attempted to visit Chen and negotiate with local officials to have his house arrest lifted. The lawyers were stopped on their way to the house. Chen reportedly managed to leave his house and spoke with them briefly, but was then forcibly taken back. When he resisted, he was beaten up by men surrounding his house. The lawyers tried to go to Chen’s house, but they were stopped and reportedly beaten up and taken to a police station where they were interrogated. They were told that the case now involved “state secrets” and escorted back to Beijing.

On October 10, Chen Guangcheng’s cousin Chen Guangli and another villager, also surnamed Chen, who had been giving interviews about Chen Guangcheng’s situation to foreign reporters, were reportedly detained. On October 24, two other Beijing scholars and friends of Chen Guangcheng went to visit him. As Chen ran out to greet them, he was stopped and beaten by more than 20 men stationed outside. The visitors were quickly escorted away. Authorities did not release Chen even after the UN Special Rapporteur, Manfred Nowak, called his relatives from Beijing during the Nowak’s visit in late November 2005.

February 14, 2006

Appendices:(In Chinese, see Article_Show.asp?ArticleID=169)

1. The February 8 “Open Letter to All Villagers” from Yinan Public Security Bureau

2. “List of Officials Responsible for Detaining and Harassing Chen Guangcheng” compiled by villagers

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