by Steven Ertelt
September 27, 2005
Beijing, China (LifeNews.com) — Chinese attorneys are risking their own freedom by pressing for the release of an activist against forced abortions detained by local officials in the eastern Chinese city of Linyi. They have released an open letter calling for authorities to release Chen Guangcheng, who has been under house arrest for the last month after exposing the brutal forced abortion and sterilization tactics of population control officials.
The letter comes at a time when Chen may be charged with passing on government secrets because of an interview he conducted with Time magazine about the scandal. Chen said that 7,000 area people had been sterilized against their will and others were forced to endure late-term abortions.
The interview made the human rights abuses an international sensation and provided President Bush additional reasons for cutting off taxpayer funding to the UNFPA last week, due to its support of and participation in the China population programs.
The London Guardian newspaper reports that friends of Chen’s say his house is surrounded by police. Authorities have cut off his phone lines to prevent him from contacting anyone, set up roadblocks leading to his house, and posted guards at train stations to watch for people who may try to help him escape.
American attorney Jerome Cohen, teaching in Beijing, said "Chen is not permitted to show his face at the door to his courtyard."
Cohen, who was able to talk to Chen before his phone was cut off, told the London Financial Times that Chen sounded "very desperate."
"The preferred outcome is the central government will wake up and call off the hound dogs down there," says Cohen. "He’s certainly not free and his family has been threatened."
Some of Chen’s supporters have staged hunger protests but the situation has gone largely unreported in China’s official media.
When asked for comment by the Financial Times, one local family planning official said of Chen’s situation, "It’s none of your business."
Chen is still being held despite the arrest of some of the population control officials involved in the scandal.
Last week, China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission said it had received "successive complaints" about the sterilizations and abortions in Linyi, a city of 10 million people 400 miles southeast of Beijing.
"Some persons concerned in a few counties and townships of Linyi did commit practices that violated law and infringed upon legitimate rights and interests of citizens while conducting family planning work," the commission said in a statement.
Yu Xuejun, NPFPC spokesman, said "Initial investigation indicates illegal family planning practices that violate people’s legal rights and interests do exist."
"Those who are responsible have been dismissed from duty. Some are under investigation, some in detention. Further measures will be taken by government departments concerned according to legal competence and procedure," he said.
When he was arrested, Chen Guangcheng, a 34 year-old blind peasant had been preparing a class-action lawsuit challenging abuses in his eastern hometown.