Wednesday, October 05, 2005

China abortion activist 'beaten'

A blind Chinese activist who raised concerns about forced abortion and sterilisation in Shandong province has been beaten up, media reports said.
Chen Guangcheng, 34, was attacked on Tuesday by a group of men, according to lawyers who spoke to Western media.

The lawyers had tried to visit him and persuade local officials to lift his house arrest.

Mr Chen has been detained since August, when he accused officials in Linyi of breaking family planning laws.

Several Chinese health workers have reportedly been arrested or sacked over his claims, that they forced people to have abortions or sterilisations.

Mr Chen was left bleeding on the street after the attack, according to Radio Free Asia.

"Chen Guangcheng was bleeding from several cuts and injuries to his arms, and also sustained an injury to his leg," a villager surnamed Chen told RFA.

Residents told RFA that Mr Chen's attackers were local officials, and that the visiting lawyers were also assaulted.

One child

Mr Chen's allegations were first given prominence in the US media, and Time magazine said last month that some 7,000 people had been sterilised against their will in Shandong.

China - the world's most populous country, with 1.3bn people - brought in a one-child policy 25 years ago in a drive to curb population growth.

Urban couples are offered strong incentives to have no more than one child, while policy is rural areas is more relaxed.

However, the government does not authorise health workers to carry out forced sterilisation and abortions.

Following Mr Chen's allegations, China's National Population and Family Planning Commission said it had received "successive complaints" about illegal practices in Linyi.

"Some persons concerned in a few counties and townships of Linyi did commit practices that violated law and infringed upon legitimate rights and interests of citizens while conducting family planning work," a statement from the commission said.

It is not known how many health officials were jailed or dismissed for their actions.