Chinese Authorities Target Blind Human Rights Activist

March 18, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: March 18, 2006 12:00 am

CHINA – It's been four days since the evening of March 11, 2006 when blind human rights activist Mr. Chen Guangcheng from Linqi City, Shandong Province was arrested. According to informed villagers, Chen is currently being detained at a police station in Shuanghou Township.

Chen's wife Yuan Weijing is temporarily staying at a relative's home, which has been surrounded by a heavy deployment of police. Our reporter tried to call her, but she could not be reached on either the telephone at her relative's home or on her cell phone.

Several villagers reported today that since yesterday, government officials, public security staff and police officers have been coming to their homes and attempting to coerce them into signing a statement testifying that Chen Guangcheng and others had committed “crimes.”

A villager named Ms. Xu said that yesterday she had seen several government officials, in groups of two, knocking at doors of the entire village. Ms. Xu reported that the officials were trying to coerce the villagers into cooperating with the government. The officials wanted the villagers to testify to “crimes” committed by Chen Guangcheng and others.

Ms. Xu also disclosed that people in Yinghou Village nearby were also being “investigated,” and that public security officers had in fact forced them to testify to the “truth of the crimes” committed by Chen Guangcheng and others. The charges against them included illegally obstructing traffic, illegally stopping vehicles, etc.

Ms. Xu also expressed her belief that government officials had pretended to be journalists and had also paid journalists to interview individual villagers who had disagreements with Chen Guangcheng so as to cook up false charges against him.

The villagers urged the outside world to pay attention to the safety of Chen Guangcheng and others, as they believed that the authorities are in the process of collecting false “evidence” in an effort to frame them.

On the evening of March 11 at about 7 pm, Chen Guangyu, landlord of Chen Guangcheng's temporary residence, was assaulted by the security guards who were monitoring Cheng Guangcheng. Mr. Chen Guangyu's face was bleeding profusely as the result of this beating. Chen Guangcheng had gone to the eastern entrance of the village to reason with the guards, but they had refused to listen.

Chen Guangcheng, Chen Guangyu, Yuan Weijing, and Chen Guangjun then went to the District Police Headquarters in the adjacent village to ask for an explanation of the incident. Their requests for an explanation were rejected. The group then went to National Highway #205 and attempted to find a ride to Qinan County.

In an effort to stop them, police officials established a roadblock on National Highway #205. Over 100 security personnel including village security guards, county security guards and the police were included in the effort. A confrontation between the two sides lasted for over one hour. At its conclusion, Liu Changji, the deputy chief of Jinan County's Public Security Bureau, issued an order to arrest Chen Guangcheng, Chen Guangyu and Chen Guangjun. After the incident, Village Director Chen Guangshan and other government officials went to villager's homes and told them not to get involved in the matter. He then asked them to support the arrests, saying, “Whoever has the guts to oppose the arrests will be subjected to the same treatment as Chen Guangcheng.”

The villagers were extremely angry that security officers had first attempted to stop Chen Guangcheng from appealing by illegally blocking vehicles on the highway and that they took advantage of this charge to accuse and then arrest Chen Guangcheng.

The villagers pointed out that public security officers' efforts in collecting the so-called “evidence of crimes” against Chen Guangcheng by means of coercion and inducement over the past half year had failed. The villagers believed that this time they had simply wanted to purposely stir up trouble so as to fabricate so-called “evidence.” On one hand, the purpose of attacking Guangyu was to get revenge, on the other, it was to set a trap to provoke Guangcheng so as to find excuses to frame him.

Mr. Chen Guangcheng, 35, has been involved in human rights campaigns for many years. Last year, he assisted human rights lawyers and foreign journalists investigate the case in which Linqi City authorities in Shandong Province abused women while promoting the birth control policy. These human rights activities offended the city authorities and subsequently he was put under house arrest last August.

Chen Guangcheng had evaded the authorities' surveillance and escaped to Beijing in the end of August. He was forcibly sent back to Shandong by Shandong Province's public security officers in early September. Since then he has been under house arrest. His telephone and Internet services have been disconnected in order to isolate him from the outside world. Chen Guangcheng has been brutally tortured several times during his time under house arrest.

On the evening of February 5, several hundred villagers clashed with government officials and the thugs hired by the officials for monitoring Chen Guangcheng. Chen Guangcheng took advantage of the ensuing chaos and escaped to his neighbor's home where he was interviewed by the media and revealed the details of his house arrest to the public. On February 6, Gao Zhisheng appealed to Chinese human rights activists, including Chen Guangcheng, to join the relay hunger strike. On that very same day, Chen Guangcheng joined the relay hunger strike. On February 8, the telephone line of the home in which Chen Guangcheng was residing was cut. Therefore, the outside world has once again lost contact with Chen Guangcheng.