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Friday, April 27, 2012

Chen Guangcheng

 Chen Guangcheng, born November 12, 1971) is a civil rights activist in the People's Republic of China who drew international attention to human rights issues in rural areas. He was placed under house arrest from September 2005 to March 2006 after talking to Time magazine about the forced abortion cases he investigated in Linyi Prefecture, Shandong Province. Authorities formally arrested him in June 2006. During his trial, Chen's lawyers were forbidden access to the court, leaving him without a proper defender. On August 24, 2006, Chen was sentenced to four years and three months for "damaging property and organising a mob to disturb traffic".

Chen was released from prison on September 8, 2010 after serving his full sentence, but remained under house arrest or "soft detention" at his home in Dongshigu Village (东师古村). Chen and his wife were reportedly beaten shortly after a human rights group released a video of their home under intense police surveillance on February 9, 2011. On 27 April 2012, Chen escaped his house arrest and reportedly fled to Beijing.
Chen is a 2007 laureate of the Ramon Magsaysay Award and in 2006 was named to the Time 100. Amnesty International has designated him a prisoner of conscience.

In 2005, Chen exposed harsh illegal measures by local authorities when enforcing the one-child policy, where family planning officials from Linyi municipal authorities in Shandong forced thousands of people to undergo sterilization or to abort pregnancies. Chinese national regulations prohibit such brutal measures. The officials were also accused of detaining and torturing relatives of people who had escaped from the forced measures.
Chen filed a class-action lawsuit on the women's behalf against Linyi officials and drew attention to the plight of the villagers. He also traveled to Beijing in June 2005 to seek redress. Although the suit he filed was rejected, the incident was publicised on the Internet and by the Time magazine who interviewed Chen.This prompted the National Population and Family Planning Commission to launch an investigation in August 2005. A month later, the Commission announced that several Linyi officials were detained.

Detention and trial

However, Linyi authorities placed Chen under house arrest in September 2005. Radio Free Asia reported that Chen was beaten up during a clash between villagers and officials. Three lawyers who were attempting to meet Chen were also beaten by unidentified men.
According to a report by the Washington Post, a campaign was launched by local officials to portray Chen as working for "foreign anti-China forces" and made much of the fact that he received foreign funding. 
According to an article in Time by Hannah Beech, “Chen Guangcheng, A Blind Man with Legal Vision,” Chen met with Time reporters to discuss the forced abortion cases when he thought authorities would take action. "Yet three hours after meeting with TIME in Beijing to discuss the issue, Chen was shoved into an unmarked vehicle by public-security agents from his hometown. They bundled him back to his village, where he was held under house arrest for months. Despite the commission's vow, only one official has been detained. Meanwhile, thugs routinely showed up at Chen's home to rough him up.
Chen was removed from his house in March 2006 and was formally detained in June 2006 by Yinan county officials. He was scheduled to stand trial on July 17, 2006 on charges of destruction of property and assembling a crowd to disrupt traffic., but this was delayed at the request of the prosecution.According to Radio Free Asia and Chinese Human Rights Defenders, prosecution delayed the trial because a crowd of Chen supporters gathered outside the courthouse. With only a few days notice, authorities rescheduled Chen's trial for August 18, 2006.

House arrest

Chen is under "soft detention", closely monitored house arrest, at his home village. He and his wife, however, have attempted to communicate via video tape and written communication. The government responded by beating Chen and his wife, confiscating documents and communication devices in their possession, cutting off electric power, and installing metal sheets over the windows of their house. Official harassment of Chen's family continued throughout his house arrest, including of Chen's six-year-old daughter, who was briefly banned from attending school and had her toys confiscated by guards, and of Chen's mother, who was harassed while working in the fields.
In 2011, The New York Times reported that a number of supporters and admirers had attempted to penetrate the security detail that monitors Chen's home to visit him, but had been turned away. In some instance, his supporters were pummeled, beaten, or robbed by security agents. Would-be visitors include journalists, European diplomats, lawyers, and intellectuals. U.S. Congressman Chris Smith attempted to visit Chen in November 2011, but was not granted permission. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the U.S. government as "alarmed" by Chen's continued detention and called on China "to embrace a different path". Human Rights Watch described his house arrest as "unlawful" and called on authorities to give Chen his freedom.

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