China Activists Cancel Conference Under Pressure

June 19, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: June 19, 2006 12:00 am

BEIJING – Chinese lawyers and civil rights campaigners, under pressure from authorities, on Monday cancelled a news conference seeking the release of a blind colleague who was detained for exposing forced abortions and sterilisations.

Chen Guangcheng, 34, a self-taught legal expert dubbed the “barefoot lawyer”, was taken into police custody on June 10 on a charge of “deliberately damaging property and gathering a mob to disrupt traffic”.

Chen had been placed under house arrest for almost 200 days last year for drawing international attention to accusations that officials in Linyi city in the eastern province of Shandong had been enforcing late-term abortions and other coercive family planning measures.

AIDS activist Hu Jia scuffled with plainclothes police outside his Beijing home when he and his wife, Zeng Jinyan, were prevented from leaving to attend Monday's news conference at a Beijing hotel, Hu said in a text message.

Teng Biao, a lecturer at China's top law school who was due to attend the news conference, said by telephone he was warned by the state China Politics and Law University to mind his own business. He declined to comment further, saying it was not convenient to talk.

“Free Guangcheng,” read a statement obtained by Reuters that was to have been distributed at the news conference. Fourteen people, including several lawyers, signed the statement.

The Beijing city government declined to comment.

China launched a one-child policy in the early 1980s to curb its population, now over 1.3 billion, but the restrictions have bolstered a traditional preference for baby boys and have come under fire from Western countries and human rights activists.