08/18/2006, 00.00
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Blind activist who revealed Shandong forced abortions goes on trial

Chen Guangcheng has been detained for months. Surrounded by intimidation, his lawyers were yesterday apprehended and accused of theft. And Gao Zhisheng, a lawyer who fights for the protection of human rights, is "missing" – he has been "kidnapped" by police.

Beijing (AsiaNews/SCMP) – Chen Guangcheng, a blind activist who uncovered the use of violence by Linyi city (Shandong) birth-control officers, goes on trial today. Lawyer, Xu Zhiyong, said yesterday that negotiations were under way with the court in Yinan County. The court has turned down a request to listen to witnesses and so only written testimonies will be presented.

Anyhow, last night, Li Jinsong, another defence lawyer, said Xu and another two members of the legal team were apprehended by police and interrogated because they had been accused of stealing a bag. He could not get any more news.

"We don't know what's happening, but it fits a pattern," said Hu Jia, an activist who campaigns for Chen. "The court wants to prevent any effective defence for Chen."

In recent months, the defence team and other activists have been harassed and beaten while trying to collect evidence for Chen. Xu said villagers in Dongshigu warned him to stay away and threatened to beat him. However, he still managed to collect 12 written testimonies in Chen's favour.

Chen is charged with damaging public property and inciting people to disrupt traffic. The charges refer to two incidents in February and March, but Xu said Chen was not involved. Since August 2005, the activist has been submitted to house arrest; he was imprisoned in March 2006 but was officially announced to be in detention only on 21 June.

In June 2005, Chen revealed the Linyi officials were using coercive means to implement birth control policies: illegal detention, frequent beatings, and even forced abortions. Thanks to his denunciations, in 2005, it was revealed that the authorities of the central-eastern province had forcibly sterilised more than 7,000 people. Chen's revelations were greeted with international outrage and the central government was forced to intervene. Activists say this trial is the local officials' "revenge".  

Xu said that at Linyi, "violence stopped after the central government sent an inspection team, but local officials failed to keep their promises not to retaliate against Chen."

According to Chen's relatives, police have set up sentry posts on the road leading to Yinan. Police surveillance has been strict in areas around Dongshigu since Chen's revelations. In July, dozens of Chen's supporters who went to court for a hearing, later cancelled, were attacked and beaten by people wearing uniforms similar to police gear.

Hu said: "Chen Guangfu saw four checkpoints about 60km away from the village and there were about 14 police cars and more than 100 police at one place."

Meanwhile, Hu Jia said Gao Zhisheng, a lawyer and civil rights activist, is "missing". His sister, Gao Yanfang, told Hu her brother had gone to visit her in Dongying in Shandong when police took him away.

Hu said more than 10 police in uniform entered the house and took Gao away: "They pinned his sister to a sofa and covered her mouth to stop her shouting. It was like a kidnapping." Gao's car is missing and his sister's cell phone was confiscated and her home line cut off.

"On 17 August, police in Dongying returned her mobile phone but she was warned to keep quiet," Hu said. He does not know where Gao is now.

Gao Zhiseheng, once a model lawyer of the Party, has become one of the sharpest critics of government persecution against Christians, Muslims and members of the Falun Gong.

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See also
Shandong: blind activist condemned to four years in prison
Shandong: fresh violence targets blind activist cause
Shandong: Blind activist appeals verdict of farcical trial
Shandong police admit to arrest of activist after four months
Christian lawyer Jiang Tianyong condemned to two years prison for 'subversion'
21/11/2017 09:45


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