06/12/2006, 00.00
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Shandong police admit to arrest of activist after four months

The province authorities confirmed the arrest of Chen Ghangcheng, a human rights activist renowned across the world for his campaign against coercive family planning. He has been missing since March.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Shandong police have admitted to having Chen Guangcheng, a world famous human rights activist, in custody. Guangcheng is renowned for his campaigns against coercive family planning by the Chinese government.

His wife, Yuan Weijing, confirmed his arrest after police yesterday asked her to sign a document listing charges against Chen: intending to damage public property and inciting people to disrupt transport. "The charges are groundless," said Yuan.

Lawyer, Teng Biao, said Chen – a 35-year-old, blind, self-taught legal expert – was "in the hands of county, not national, police" and "it's possible he will be tried for these charges".

The activist was arrested together with two cousins of his on 11 March after several months of house arrest for having denounced a violent birth control campaign under way in Shandong.

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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