06/28/2006, 00.00
CHINA
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Shandong: fresh violence targets blind activist cause

The lawyer of Chen Guangcheng, an imprisoned activist famed for his battles against forced abortion, was beaten and robbed together with his assistant, while the police of Linyi looked on.

Linyi (AsiaNews/SCMP) – There is no let up in violence targeting all those who support the cause of blind activist, Chen Guangcheng, who fights forced abortions in China. Yesterday Chen's lawyer was beaten and robbed in the native city of the activist – Linyi in Shandong.

Li Jinsong and his assistant, Li Subin, were trying to meet Chen's wife, Yuan Weijing, when they were attacked by some unidentified villagers, who struck them in the face and stole their video camera. Local police were on the scene and looked on without lifting a finger.

The two lawyers had gone to Linyi because the activist's wife is under "virtual" house arrest; no charges were brought against her however she cannot leave the house.

The lawyer, Li, was hoping to obtain a copy of the detention notification sent to the woman and to discuss the possibility of paying bail.

The Shandong police gave official notice of Chen's arrest only on 11 June but the activist – known worldwide for his campaigns against forced family planning – has been missing since March. The charges against him, slammed by the defence as unfounded, are "damage to public property and inciting people to disrupt transport."

The lawyer told how his car was stopped by a group of women at the entrance to the village. Li called the police from the car but they did not intervene, even when a man punched him in the face and snatched his video camera. The lawyer said the group of defence lawyers has been followed since they arrived at the activist's home on 20 June.

On 23 June, the driver of a taxi that brought them to Linyi was beaten just outside the village.

Chen is known across the country for his work for people with disabilities and for his campaign again government birth control policies. He helped journalists of the Washington Post to unearth evidence of a coercive abortion campaign targeting women in Linyi, Shandong. Thanks to the information he provided, the American newspaper was able to prove that in recent years, the authorities of central-eastern province had forcibly sterilized more than 7,000 people.

After the allegations were published, China's Family Planning Agency was forced to admit, on 19 September last year, that some government representatives "had carried out forced abortions and sterilizations in violation of citizens' legal rights."

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