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Basic Information

Name Chen Guangcheng / 陈光诚
Date of birth November 12, 1971
Criminal detention June 10, 2006[1]
Formal arrest June 21, 2006
Charge Intentional damage of property [Article 275 of the Criminal Law] and organizing people to block traffic [Article 291 of the Criminal Law]
Sentence Four years and three months
Imprisonment location Linyi Municipal Prison, Shandong Province
Date of release September 9, 2010
Current situation Under house arrest since September 2010 in Linyi, Shandong Province

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Current Status: Release and Heavy Surveillance

Chen Guangcheng, a blind, self-taught ("barefoot") lawyer and activist, was sentenced to a four year and three month prison term for "intentional damage of public property" and "gathering people to block traffic." He was released after serving the full term of his sentence on September 9, 2010.

Following his release, there were reports that he and his family have been placed under heavy surveillance and that his family's and relatives' mobile and landlines have been cut. In a brief interview with Radio Free Asia, Chen stated that he was doing well aside from some minor health issues contacted whilst in prison.

In February 2011, a video of Chen and his wife Yuan Weijing was obtained and posted by the U.S.-based rights group China Aid. In the video, Chen and Yuan describe the round-the-clock surveillance by guards surrounding their house in the village of Dongshigu, Linyi City; having their phone lines and Internet connection cut off; and surviving on vegetables they grow in the backyard and the groceries provided by his elderly mother because they are forbidden to leave their home. Chen says: “A society that is not built on a foundation of fairness and equality, but instead relies on bullying and violence, cannot possibly maintain lasting stability.” He says that he has continued to appeal to the authorities to overturn his criminal conviction on which he was imprisoned, and asks for help to deliver his appeal to “institutions that are concerned with fairness and justice in human society.” Following the release of the video, Chen and Yuan were reportedly severely beaten by police.

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Overview: Chen Guangcheng's Trials

Chen Guangcheng, a blind, self-taught ("barefoot") lawyer and activist, was sentened to a four year and three month prison term for "intentional damage of public property" and "gathering people to block traffic."

Chen came under official scrutiny when he exposed abuses in implementation of the one-child policy.

Since the late 1990s, Chen has fought for numerous rural causes, including farmers' rights. Chen came under official scrutiny when he exposed abuses in implementation of the one-child policy in Linyi City, Shandong Province, and he was detained in 2005.He was convicted in 2006 following a trial marked with irregularities.

Since his conviction, Chen has been abused in prison and is reportedly in poor health. Chen's family is also barred from visiting him in prison, and was not informed when he was transferred to another prison.
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Imprisonment: Roughshod Treatment of Blind Lawyer and His Supporters

Chen's health suffered in prison, where he was subjected to serious abuse. This abusive treatment extended as well to Chen's family and legal counsel: both before and after his detention, Chen's family was harassed as a means of intimidation, and his lawyers were harassed, detained, and even beaten.

Chen's health has suffered in prison, where he has been subjected to serious abuse.

This blind lawyer's time in prison was exceptionally difficult, Police officers and fellow prisoners had reportedly beaten Chen because he refused to shave his head. Chen also reportedly did not get enough to eat in prison, nor was he allowed to read books in Braille sent to him by his family, or interact with others. Chen went on hunger strikes to protest his inhumane treatment.[2]

In addition to enduring Chen's absence, his family suffered in other ways throughout his ordeal, particularly in the lead-up to his trial. His mother and three-year-old son were kidnapped from their home in Beijing by Linyi authorities. Chen's brother, Chen Guangjun, testified that he was coerced into giving false information to the police. Chen's other brothers and cousins were detained, threatened, and intimidated by the authorities. Chen's wife, Yuan Weijing (袁伟静), was consistently harassed, put under surveillance, barred from seeing her husband, and was even prevented from seeing a dentist.
Members of Chen's legal team were variously harassed...even assaulted and detained.

Members of Chen's legal team were variously harassed, prevented from meeting Chen, prevented from attending the hearings, and even assaulted and detained; members of that legal team include: Li Jinsong (李劲松), Xu Zhiyong (许志永), Li Subin (李苏宾), Li Kechang (李克昌), Cheng Hai (裎海), Meng Xianming (孟宪明), Li Fangping (李方平), Zhang Lihui (张立辉), Yang Zaixin (杨在新) and Zhang Jiankang (张鉴康).
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International Outcry for Chen's Release and
Respect for the Independence of Lawyers

Numerous independent international experts have called attention to the restrictions on the independence of lawyers in China, and the increasing crackdowns on lawyers. Many of these experts have also spoken on Chen's behalf and called for his release.

  • The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention[3] determined that Chen's detention was arbitrary during its 48th session in 2006.[4]

  • In October 2007, 34 members of the U.S. Congress urged President Hu Jintao to release Chen.[5]

  • On September 7, 2006, the EU Parliament passed a resolution calling for the release of Chen Guangcheng and other human rights defenders.[6]

  • On December 21, 2006, the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its Causes and Consequences,[7] the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders,[8] the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression,[9] and the Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture[10] sent a joint urgent appeal to the Chinese government regarding Chen Guangcheng, Yuan Weijing, some of Chen's lawyers, and witnesses at his trial.[11]

  • On December 1, 2006, the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders sent a joint allegation letter to the Chinese government concerning the enactment of tightened regulations regarding the legal profession, procedural obstacles for lawyers, and an increase in the harassment of lawyers, including Chen Guangcheng.[12]

  • On July 14, 2006, the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders sent a joint urgent appeal to the Chinese government together concerning Chen Guangcheng.[13]

  • On April 7, 2006, the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, and the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment sent a joint urgent appeal to the Chinese government regarding Chen Guangcheng.[14]

  • On September 19, 2005, the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and its Causes and Consequences, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders sent an urgent appeal to the Chinese government concerning Chen Guangcheng.[15]
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Awards Received by Chen Guangcheng

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Background Profile:
Rising above Physical and Governmental Obstacles to Fight for the Vulnerable

Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚), born in 1971 and blind since childhood, is a barefoot lawyer and activist in Shandong Province who has fought for multiple rural causes. In 1998, Chen fought against the "two-fields system," an illegal form of economic exploitation used by local officials. Chen also provided legal advice to disabled people about how to protect their rights, including suing the Beijing metro system. In his most famous case, he filed a class-action lawsuit against the city of Linyi over an official policy of forced abortions and sterilizations.

Chen Guangcheng...blind since childhood, is a "barefoot" (self-taught) lawyer and activist in Shandong Province.

In September 2005, a few days after he met in Beijing with lawyers and journalists about the cases he was working on in Linyi, Chen was abducted by Shandong authorities and returned to Linyi, where he was placed under house arrest. Despite acknowledgements in official media the same month that family planning abuses in Linyi had taken place and were being investigated, Chen was beaten by local officials when he attempted to meet with visiting lawyers in October 2005. Local authorities told the lawyers, who were also attacked by unidentified assailants, that Chen's case now involved state secrets. The involvement of state secrets can weigh considerably on a case, impeding the work of defense lawyers, and resulting in a number of procedural derogations.[17]

Chen was taken into custody in March 2006. For three months his status and whereabouts were not disclosed and his lawyers had no access to him. In June, Chen was charged with "intentional damage of property and organizing people to block traffic," and was sentenced to four years and three months imprisonment in August 2006. His lawyers were unable to appear at his trial. Chen lodged an appeal of the conviction. On October 31, 2006, the court overturned the verdict and ordered a new trial by the county court in Yinan in Shandong Province. On November 29, 2006, Chen was again found guilty. Chen's appeal was rejected on January 9, 2007, and reports continue to surface of harassment of Chen's lawyers. He was released from prison after serving his full term on September 9, 2010.
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Insight into Chen's Case: Court and Other Documents

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HRIC Advocacy and Media Work on Chen Guangcheng

Below is a listing of HRIC advocacy and media work on Chen Guangcheng, including press releases, statements, and case updates. To subscribe to HRIC's press list, please e-mail releases-request@lists.hrichina.org with "SUBSCRIBE" as the subject heading.


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Updated News Articles

HRIC's Daily News Brief is a daily compilation of selected human rights-related news covered in local and regional Chinese and English press compiled by HRIC's research office. Visit the Daily News Brief for recent news articles on Chen Guangcheng and Yuan Weijing.


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ENDNOTES

[1] Chen Guangcheng was repeatedly detained and put under house arrest prior to his formal criminal detention on June 10, 2006. He and his wife Yuan Jinwei was put under residential surveillance starting on August 12, 2005; he managed to leave occasionally, but was beaten as a result. On March 11, 2006, Chen was taken away by local authorities without presentation of any legal documents and was put in detention until the Public Security Bureau of Linnan County's announcement of Chen's criminal detention on June 10, 2006. For further information, see Chen's appeal document (in Chinese), available at http://www.chinaeweekly.com/big5/viewarticle_big5.aspx?vid=3882.

[2] Information in this section on Chen Guangcheng's treatment in prison is provided by his wife Yuan Weijing and brother Chen Guanfu. For more information, see Ding Yu, "Chen Guangcheng Goes on Hunger Strike to Protest Ill Treatment in Prison" [盲人维权者陈光诚受虐绝食抗议 狱方视而不见] , Radio Free Asia, June 20, 2007; Ji Lisi, "Chen Guangcheng Gets Insufficient Food in Jail" [陈光诚投诉在狱中挨饿], Radio Free Asia, May 31, 2007.

[3] The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was established by the UN Commission on Human Rights and assumed by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate cases of arbitrary deprivation of liberty worldwide. The working group acts on information submitted to it by nongovernmental organizations and others. It is the only non-treaty-based mechanism at the UN whose mandate expressly provides for consideration of individual complaints. This means that its actions are based on the right of petition of individuals anywhere in the world.

[4] United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, “Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Including the Right to Development: Opinions adopted by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,” U.N. Doc. A/HRC/7/4/Add.1, Opinion No. 47/2006 (2008), http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/7/4/Add.1.

[5] U.S. Representative Trent Franks AZ, District 2, “Congressman Franks and 33 Members of Congress Call on China to Respect Human Rights: Urge the Release of Pro-Life Advocate Chen Guangcheng,” October 3, 2007, http://www.house.gov/list/press/az02_franks/chenguangcheng.html.

[6] European Parliament Resolution on EU-China Relations, 2005/2161(INI) (September 7, 2006), http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P6-TA-2006-0346+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN.

The Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers was established by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1994 under resolution 1994/41. The Special Rapporteur is required to inquire into any substantial allegations regarding attacks on the independence of the judiciary, lawyers, and court officials, to record progress achieved in protecting and enhancing their independence, and to make concrete recommendations including the provision of advisory services or technical assistance when they are requested by the State concerned.

[7] The Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Its Causes and Consequences is a position established by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1994 under resolution 1994/45. The Special Rapporteur is required to gather information on violence against women, its causes and consequences from governments, treaty bodies, specialized agencies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and to respond to such information. The Special Rapporteur is requested to recommend measures, ways and means, at the national, regional and international levels, to eliminate violence against women and its causes, and to remedy its consequences.

[8] The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders is a position established by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2000 under resolution 2000/61. Their main role is to seek, receive, examine, and respond to information on the situation and the rights of anyone, acting individually or in association with others, to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. They must also seek to establish cooperation and conduct dialogue with governments and other interested actors on the promotion and effective implementation of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Finally, the Special Representative must also recommend effective strategies to better protect human rights defenders and follow up on these recommendations.

[9] The Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression is a position established by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1993 under resolution 1993/45. The Special Rapporteur is required to gather information on discrimination and threats, or use of violence and harassment, directed at persons seeking to promote the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression as affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Additionally, they are requested to seek reliable information from governments and non-governmental organizations and any other parties who have knowledge of the case, submit an annual report to the Commission outlining their activities, and provide recommendations on ways and means to better promote and protect the right to freedom of expression and opinion.

[10] The Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is a position established by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1985 under resolution 1985/33. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur covers all countries, irrespective of whether a State has ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Special Rapporteur is required to transmit urgent appeals to States with regard to individuals reported to be at risk of torture, as well as communications on past alleged cases of torture; undertake fact-finding country visits; and submit annual reports on activities to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.

[11] United Nations Human Rights Council, “Report Submitted by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Hina Jilani: Addendum: Summary of Cases Transmitted to Governments and Replies Received,” U.N. Doc A/HRC/7/28/Add.1, 239-268 (2008), http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/7/28/Add.1.

[12] United Nations Human Rights Council, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Leandro Despouy: Addendum: Situations in Specific Countries or Territories,” U.N. Doc A/HRC/8/4/Add.1, 74 (2008), http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/8/4/Add.1.

[13] United Nations Human Rights Council, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Leandro Despouy: Addendum: Situations in Specific Countries or Territories,” U.N. Doc A/HRC/4/25/Add.1, 81 (2007), http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/4/25/Add.1.

[14] United Nations Human Rights Council, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Leandro Despouy: Addendum: Situations in Specific Countries or Territories,” U.N. Doc A/HRC/4/25/Add.1, 78 (2007), http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/4/25/Add.1.

[15] United Nations Commission on Human Rights, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Ambeyi Ligabo: Addendum: Summary of Cases Transmitted to Governments and Replies Received,” U.N. Doc E/CN.4/2006/55/Add.1, 171-2 (2006), http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=E/CN.4/2006/55/Add.1.

[16] See International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX), "Index on censorship honours champions of free expression," March 20, 2007 .

[17] The state secrets legal system is complex and opaque, sweeping a vast universe of information into its net. All Chinese citizens are obligated to protect state secrets, and individuals can be criminally charged for stealing, possessing, or leaking state secrets. Because almost anything can be classified as a state secret, or retroactively classified, individuals have been charged for "leaking" a broad range of information, including information that was published in newspapers. For more information on the State Secrets system, see, Human Rights in China, State Secrets: China's Legal Labyrinth (2007).

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