Attorney for China Forced Abortion Activist Chen Guangcheng Steps Down

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 31, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Attorney for China Forced Abortion Activist Chen Guangcheng Steps Down Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 31, 2006

Linyi, China ( — The lead attorney for Chen Guangcheng, the blind activist who exposed a massive forced abortion and sterilization in Linyi, China, has stepped down. Li Jinsong headed up a team of attorneys from Beijing volunteering on Chen’s behalf, but had recently been attacked when local government thugs turned his vehicle upside down as he drove to meet Chen’s wife to discuss the case.

Li will be replaced by Xu Zhiyong, a well-known lawyer who has been Li’s top assistant.

Xu has also faced the wrath of the local officials who jailed Chen as he was beaten last year trying to make contact with Chen while the activist was detained in his home.

Chen Guangcheng has been harassed and jailed by local Chinese officials in the eastern city of Linyi since he exposed a brutal population control campaign there.

Chen exposed a family planning campaign that involved officials forcing as many as 10,000 women to submit to abortions or sterilizations. Chen brought international attention to the travesty with interviews in the Washington Post and Time magazine.

Anyone who attempted to flee the brutality was apprehended, beaten, and held hostage in city prisons until their relatives came forward and paid large fines for their release.

Chen was later arrested on trumped up charges related to a protest of the house arrests of his family and others. Last year he was organizing a class action lawsuit against the Linyi government when he started coming under persecution.

"Forced abortions take place regularly, but no one dares to litigate but a few barefoot lawyers," Xu told the Christian Science Monitor on Thursday. "Local government is taking revenge on the barefoot lawyer [Chen]."

Xu says the trial will not be fair, if one is conducted at all. Though he has obtained testimony on Chen’s behalf, defense witnesses will probably not be allowed to appear in court to support their claims.

Li also spoke with the Christian Science Monitor and said he worries the Linyi judge could "trick" Chen’s attorneys and tell them the trial has been delayed again and go ahead with it without their presence.

Xu said he has asked for an open public trial but doubts the government will grant one.

"If people could attend and know the truth, they would change their ideas," he told the Monitor. "They would see what is happening. But instead the local government is closing and blocking everything."

The court delayed the first trial initially set for July 20 and has not set a new date.

At the time, Li told AP he visited Chen at a detention center where local officials are holding him.

"He seemed to be in pretty good shape physically and mentally," Li said.

Chen’s attorneys say the Chinese government is turning a blind eye because it often allows local governments great leeway in putting down political unrest. They also say leading Chinese officials have been lied to about Chen’s situation.

"They’re afraid of information getting out," Li, who has received deaths threats, said of Linyi officials. "They don’t want the leadership in Beijing to know the truth about what’s happening there."

Linyi officials have persuaded some top Chinese leaders that Chen’s efforts are supported by overseas groups and they successfully lobbied the Foreign Ministry and the powerful Propaganda Department to ban any discussion of Chen’s case in the state media or on the Internet.

Li has only been allowed to meet with Chen once and was prohibited from discussing the case with him.

Chen and his wife and 70 year-old mother were under house arrest beginning in September last year. The officials cut his telephone lines and used specialized equipment to prevent him from using his cell phone.

Linyi police have placed Chen’s mother, wife and child under house arrest.

"There isn’t much hope," said Chen’s wife, Yuan Weijing, told the Washington Post via telephone from their home recently.

"Everything that has happened runs counter to Hu Jintao’s talk of democracy and governing by law. We live in a nation without law, a nation without morality," she explained.

Top U.S. officials have pressed the Chinese government to release Chen, but national officials have not intervened. Linyi officials, in late May, prevented two senior U.S. diplomats from trying to visit Yuan.

ACTION: Contact China’s embassy in the United States and encourage officials there to help Chen Guangcheng. You can find contact information at