02/17/2011, 00.00
CHINA
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Foreign reporters roughed up in front of Chen Guangcheng’s home

Journalists from various Western media tried to visit the blind activist who has fought against forced abortions and China’s one-child policy. A group of local “farmers” roughly pushed them away, seizing their equipment. Despite being informed of the incident, police declined to intervene.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A group of foreign reporters were forcibly removed as they tried to meet Chen Guangcheng, a blind human rights activist under house arrest for his activity in defence of life and against forced abortion, the reporters said. A group of hooligans apparently working for the authorities roughed them up in front of Chen’s house.

"We were roughly pushed away from Chen's home" by about a dozen men, said Brice Pedroletti, a journalist with French newspaper Le Monde.

Stephane Lagarde, a journalist with Radio France Internationale, noted thugs at Chen's village in Shandong province also seized the memory card of his digital recorder and his China reporter credentials. One man threatened to hit him with a brick.

"These peasants from the area are recruited for this type of purpose and repelled us very forcefully," he said.

The New York Times confirmed that two of its staff were involved in an incident this week, but declined to give further details. It did however say that they were in good conditions.

The incidents prompted a warning Wednesday from the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China to its members.

It said that "groups of violent, plainclothes thugs" had attacked journalists and that police failed to come to their aid.

Chen Guangcheng was released from prison on 9 September after he completed a four-year sentence for “wilfully harming public property" and "gathering masses to disturb traffic order”.

In reality, the authorities had been after the lawyer because of his indefatigable work on behalf of women and against forced abortions, a practice that is part of China’s infamous one-child family planning policy since the 1970s.

He has worked primarily in Henan province, where he was able to expose and stop forced abortions and sterilisation by local family planning authorities.

Chen has been active both inside and outside courtrooms, so that over the years, he has become one of the country’s best-known and better-loved public figures.

On 13 September, soon after his liberation, he disappeared again. Even US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called for his release.

Today he complained that, for all practical purposes, he is still in prison.

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