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Asia-pacific

Blind China activist is beaten by police, rights group claims

Latest update : 2011-02-11

A Chinese activist lawyer and his wife were beaten by police and state security officials for making a secret video discussing their life under strict house arrest, a rights group said Friday.

AFP - A blind Chinese activist under house arrest in eastern China has been beaten by police, apparently for smuggling out a videotape lashing out at efforts to silence him, a rights group said Friday.

Chen Guangcheng, who gained worldwide fame for exposing abuses in China's "one-child" population policy, was beaten either Tuesday or Wednesday by police in eastern Shandong province for making the videotape, the Chinese Human Rights Defenders said.

His wife, who is also under house arrest with him, was also beaten, it said.

Police are refusing to allow him to seek medical treatment for the beating, which has left him bedridden, the Hong Kong-based group said in a statement that cited an unnamed source with close knowledge of Chen's situation.

Chen was placed under house arrest in September after serving a more than four-year prison sentence meted out after he exposed widespread late-term abortions and forced sterilisations under China's "one child" population control policy.

During the daring hour-long video, released Wednesday by the US-based rights group China Aid, Chen described the harsh conditions of his house arrest and said police had threatened to beat him or throw him back in jail.

"The conservative forces of the Communist Party have reached their worst point in openly ignoring the constitution and laws to crack down on villagers and activities aimed at defending rights," Chen said in the video.

"They are using hooligan methods to provoke and make trouble (for us) -- they say we will beat you and beat you and the judicial departments will ignore it," added Chen, who was wearing dark glasses and a black jacket in the video.

Three teams, each comprising 22 people, monitor his home 24 hours a day, following orders from the Communist Party and the secretive state security ministry, he said. His mobile phone service has been cut off.

"I have come out of a small jail and gone into a bigger jail," he said.

Police also intimidate Chen's neighbours, calling him a "traitor" and a "counter-revolutionary," he said.

Other activists and rights lawyers told AFP they had been informed of Chen's beating and that the information was credible.

"It is pretty clear that this news came from Chen Guangcheng, but how it was relayed to the public is not so clear," leading rights activist and legal scholar Teng Biao told AFP.

"His house arrest is a complete violation of the law... but this case is not something that can be decided by the law or the courts, only the (Communist Party) politics and law committee can decide this."

Repeated calls to local police went unanswered on Friday.

The US government has previously criticised China's handling of Chen.

Last month, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cited Chen's case in a speech ahead of the state visit to Washington of Chinese President Hu Jintao, urging China to free dissidents and stop mistreating government critics.

Although he has no formal legal qualifications, Chen is what is known in China as a "barefoot" or self-taught lawyer. He has been blind since childhood.

He was arrested in 2006 and later convicted of "wilfully harming public property" and "gathering masses to disturb traffic order" -- charges that stemmed from a rally by supporters who were angry at police treatment of the activist.

Date created : 2011-02-11

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