Trial of China Forced Abortion Activist Ends in Chaos, Chen’s Lawyers Arrested

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 18, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Trial of China Forced Abortion Activist Ends in Chaos, Chen’s Lawyers Arrested Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 18, 2006

Linyi, China ( — The trial of Chen Guangcheng, the activist attorney who brought international attention to a brutal family planning campaign that involved the forced abortions or sterilizations of 10,000 women, ended in chaos Friday. Chen’s attorneys were arrested and he was appointed two state lawyers who knew nothing of his case.

Local officials in Linyi, who previously arrested Chen on trumped up charges, arrested three of his defense attorneys and held two of them until after the trial concluded.

Xu Zhiyong, a lawyer and law professor from Beijing, was detained for 22 hours and false charges of theft to prevent him from attending the trial.
"It’s obvious the authorities did not want us to defend Chen Guangcheng," Xu, a member of a district people’s congress in Beijing, told Reuters.

Li Fangping, another attorney who was falsely arrested and prevented from helping Chen, said the activist was appointed to state lawyers who knew nothing of his case. He said the repeated denial of rights caused Chen to be physically ill.

"Chen Guangcheng fiercely protested. He was so angry that he threw up several times," Li told Reuters, quoting Chen’s brother who attended the trial. "The court hearing broke the law. We demand a retrial."

There is no news on the outcome of the trial or when the verdict will be announced. Chen’s attorneys said it lasted about two hours.

The Xinhua news agency, an official state-run China news outlet, reported that a third Chen attorney, Gao Zhisheng, was held "for questioning for his suspected involvement in criminal activities." It did not provide any further details.

Other defense attorneys who attended to help Chen announced a boycott of the hearing after the three lawyers were arrested.

"This trial lacks the basic foundation of justice. It is not legitimate because it violates our constitutional rights," lawyer Zhang Lihui told the BBC. "We are refusing to go in protest."

Hundreds of police surrounded the courthouse in Yinan County, Shandong province where the trial was held and prevented Chen supporters from entering, including Chen’s wife Yuan Weijing. Others were placed under house arrested.

"I don’t know what Chen Guangcheng or I did to get this treatment," Yuan told Reuters. "Why are they afraid of people doing what they have the right to do?"

The prevention of Chen’s attorneys from helping him appears to be masterminded by leading Chinese national officials, one human rights observer told Reuters.

"There is no doubt in my mind that there is a concerted crackdown on rights lawyers under way," Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, said. "This seems to have been sanctioned by the highest level and they’re really sending a chilling message to lawyers in China."

However, some leading Beijing officials, including Ying Songnian, a member of parliament, said the detention of the attorneys was wrong.

Ten members of the National People’s Congress issued statements denouncing the days activities.

"What happened today was the relevant authorities deliberately seeking to use barbaric, terrorizing means to attack the defense attorneys and prevent a fair trial tomorrow," they said.

Chen, who is blind, could receive up to five years in jail if found guilty of the fabricated charges and Li said before the trial that he will not plead guilty.

Chen brought the forced abortion family planning campaign to the attention of American media outlets and said as many as 10,000 women in the province were forced to have abortions or sterilized against their will. Chinese media frequently censor news coming from the Asian nation.

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.

Local officials were prepared to hold a trial last month, but delayed it for unknown reasons.

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.

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.

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.

Earlier this month, Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey asked Chinese officials to press for Chen’s release.

Sauerbrey said she made the request during a meeting of the China-U.S. Global Issues Forum, going on in Beijing.

"We believe that there has been a certain violation of normal standards and are urging China to release him from imprisonment," Sauerbrey said, according to a Washington Post report.

Sauerbrey, a pro-life advocate, is the head of the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

"For China’s own reputation," Sauerbrey said, "our hope is just that if we keep a focus on the issue, that China will recognize that it is in their best interest to release this gentleman from jail."

"We encourage China at every opportunity to live up to that commitment and to not involve itself in coercive measures, abortion, sterilization," she said.

Sauerbrey’s request was the second time the Bush administration had pressed for Chen’s release. Linyi officials, in late May, prevented two senior U.S. diplomats from trying to visit Chen’s wife.

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