New York) – The Chinese government should immediately guarantee blind human rights defender Chen Guangcheng’s safety, end its persecution of him and his family, and ensure that he is not returned to any form of detention or subject to any restrictions on his rights, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch has been calling for Chen’s release since 2006.
Chen, a blind legal activist, is reported to have escaped from his home village of Dongshigu in Shandong province on April 22, 2012, after 19 months of unlawful detention. According to activists, Chen is reportedly in a “100% safe location” in Beijing. Chen described his escape in a video circulated on the Chinese-language website Boxun earlier today. In the video, Chen appeals to Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to “personally intervene” by opening an investigation on Chen and his family’s confinement and “those who ordered county-level police and officials to break into my house, beat and hurt me, refused me medical attention – without any legal foundation or officers wearing uniforms.”
“The central government has for years condoned, abetted, and possibly directed the human rights abuses visited upon Chen and his family,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “We’re well past the time when the government should focus on the conduct of officials in Shandong, and cease persecution of someone whose activism is wholly legal.”
In June 2005, Chen filed a class action lawsuit accusing officials in Linyi, Shandong Province, of seeking to enforce strict population control laws by subjecting thousands of people to forced abortions and sterilization.