2/15/11 China (ChinaAid) – The Committee to Support Chinese Lawyers is shocked by reports that rights activist and self-taught lawyer Chen Guangcheng (???) and his wife Yuan Weijing (???) were beaten by police and state security officials on February 10, 2011. The Committee calls upon Chinese authorities to investigate this incident, charge the individuals involved, and put an end to ongoing extra-judicial measures being taken against the couple. China has repeatedly committed itself to the rule of law. Continuing to punish a rights defender, and his family, after he has fully served out his sentence is a significant abuse of state power; violent retaliation when the facts of this abuse come to light only further highlights the unlawfulness of such arbitrary punishment and detention.
In 2005, Chen Guangcheng, who is 38-year-old and blind, from Linyi (??) City, Shandong Province, documented systemic violence on the part of Linyi municipal authorities in enforcing birth quotas. In retaliation, those same authorities had him arrested and charged with“intentionally damaging property”and“gathering crowds to disturb traffic”; the government contended that the blind activist had led a gang on a destructive rampage through municipal offices and shut down a highway. He was sentenced to four years and three months in prison.
On Sept. 9, 2010, Chen was released. However, it has been reported that since that time, Chen, Yuan, and their 5-year-old daughter have been continuously subjected to harsh extra-judicial measures. Reports indicate that they are not allowed to leave their home or to communicate with the outside world, and that visitors have been denied access to the family altogether since October. Moreover, it has been reported that Dongshigu, their home village, has been subject to conditions of martial law, with over 100 hired thugs monitoring all movements in and out of the village. Chen’s home is flooded with lights at night, and security cameras have been installed inside and outside his home.
The incident leading to the most recent beating is apparently in reprisal for releasing a video documenting the harsh conditions of their current house arrest. The hour-long video smuggled out of the couples’ home is the first word from Chen to reach the outside world since his release. The video, which was made available online on February 9, 2011, shows Chen and Yuan speaking about the conditions of their confinement, occasionally turning the camera on the security officers stationed outside their windows. Within a day of the online release of the video, Chen and Yuan were reportedly beaten by police and state security officials.
This incident demonstrates a number of ongoing patterns of abuse of state authority: punishment meted out when activists uncover abuse on the part of local officials; extra-judicial detentions following the completion of criminal punishments; and harassment and abuse towards the families of individuals the state seeks to silence. Human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng (???), though released on a“reprieve” after a conviction for subversion, has been held in secret detention since February 2009, with the exception of a brief reappearance in March and April 2010. His family reportedly fled conditions of ongoing house arrest, and were granted asylum in the United States. Liu Xia (??), the wife of the imprisoned 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo (???), has reportedly been under house arrest with severely restricted communications since October of 2010.
It is a foundational principle of the rule of law that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. The unlawful detention of Chen and Yuan is also in violation of Article 37 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China. When the government engages in such lawless targeting of those it perceives as potential critics, allowing no opportunity for legal challenges, it undermines the rule of law in China.