China: Jailed blind activist beaten by other prisoners on order of guards

Jailed activist Chen Guangcheng has been severely beaten by other prisoners on the orders of prison guards and denied medical treatment, said Amnesty International today (22 June). The organisation believes his life is in danger, and that he is at risk of further torture and ill-treatment.

Chen Guangcheng told his wife that after he refused to have his head shaved, six other prisoners had pushed him to the floor, encouraged by prison guards, and hit and kicked him hard. He fears that one of his ribs might be broken. He has since begun a hunger strike in protest, refusing water as well as food.

Chen Guangcheng is a lawyer who helped villagers take legal action when they were allegedly forced by the local authorities to have abortions, to meet birth quotas set by central government. He had been under house arrest since September 2005. In August 2006, after a grossly unfair trial, he was sentenced to four years and three months in prison for “damaging public property and gathering people to block traffic”.

He said he was being punished for “being disobedient” due to his insistence on filing an appeal to the provincial higher court. Since Chen Guangcheng has been blind since birth he requires the assistance of his lawyer or his wife to help him draft his appeal. However the authorities at the Linyi City Prison have refused to permit either his lawyer or his wife to visit him for longer than 30 minutes per month, making it impossible for Chen Guangcheng to prepare an appeal.

Amnesty International said:

“Chen Guangcheng is a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for his peaceful defence of human rights.

“The Chinese authorities must stop the persecution of people who stand up for human rights; as the Olympic Games draw closer, the world will be watching to see whether human rights promises have been honoured. At present they have not.”

Amnesty International members around the world are writing to the Chinese authorities, expressing deep concern at reports that Chen Guangcheng was severely beaten and urging the authorities to ensure that he is given all the medical treatment he needs. They are asking that he be given access to a lawyer of his choice, and given a fair hearing if he appeals against his sentence. Amnesty is further calling on the authorities to launch a full, impartial investigation into the serial abuse suffered by Chen Guangcheng, and ultimately to release him from prison.

Chen Guangcheng is one example of a disturbing pattern of Chinese lawyers and activists being subjected to conviction and imprisonment after unfair trials. The pattern continues despite promises by the Chinese authorities to improve human rights in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in August 2008.

Despite several measures introduced to curb the practice, torture and ill-treatment remain widespread in China. Common methods include kicking, beating, electric shocks, suspension by the arms, shackling in painful positions and sleep and food-deprivation.

Amnesty International remains deeply concerned that human rights defenders who attempt to report more widely on violations, challenge policies which are deemed politically sensitive or try to rally others to their cause face serious risk of abuse.

  • Send an appeal to the Chinese authorities calling for the release of Chen Guangcheng
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