China Lawyers Beaten Trying to Help Activist

June 23, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: June 23, 2006 12:00 am

BEIJING — Three Chinese lawyers were beaten and detained when they travelled to the coastal province of Shandong to visit an activist who opposed forced abortions who was detained earlier this month, a colleague said on Friday.

Chen Guangcheng, a 34-year-old self-taught legal expert who exposed forced abortions and sterilisations in Shandong, was taken into police custody on June 10 on a charge of 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 Shandong had been enforcing late-term abortions and other coercive family planning measures.

Lawyer Li Jinsong was detained on Thursday when he tried to visit Chen, Beijing-based activist Zeng Jinyan said.

When a second group of three lawyers travelled to Shandong, they were beaten by a group of men who emerged from an unmarked car.

The lawyers called emergency numbers hoping for help, but instead the police took them in for questioning, Zeng said.

“Strangely, the police used all kinds of reasons to detain the three beaten lawyers at the local police station and would not let them leave,” Zeng said in an e-mail.

Chen's case has drawn international attention to China's one-child policy, introduced in the early 1980s to curb its population, bolstering a traditional preference for baby boys and drawing criticism from rights groups.

Earlier this week, lawyers and civil rights activists were forced to cancel a news conference seeking Chen's release, under pressure from authorities.

In a separate case, a Shanghai activist has been forcibly admitted to a mental hospital following attempts to petition the government in Beijing over evictions to make way for urban redevelopment, New York-based Human Rights in China said.

Liu Xinjuan had been admitted to a branch of Shanghai's Jiangchuan Diduan Hospital for psychiatric treatment, the fifth time in three years she had been forced into a mental hospital, the watchdog group said.

China has a history of using psychiatric hospitals to “re-educate” political dissidents, the United Nations and activists say.