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China’s President Called on to Release Barefoot Lawyer Who Opposed Coercive Abortions

August 29, 2006

Advocates around the world criticize treatment of Chen Guangcheng, seek investigation
and redress for human rights violations.

BEIJING—Today more than 100 leaders in the fields of human rights, bioethics, reproductive health and religion from more than 30 countries and six continents submitted a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao to protest the treatment and trial of Chen Guangcheng.

The letter, coordinated by Catholics for a Free Choice and signed by individuals who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of social justice, human rights, ethics and morality, asked the relevant national and municipal authorities “to immediately begin investigative procedures into and launch legal supervision of the severe violations of the human rights of Chen Guangcheng.”

Chen, a lawyer and human rights defender, became subject to harassment, arbitrary detention and other human rights violations last year after exposing a large-scale population planning campaign that both violated the Population and Family Planning Law of the People’s Republic of China and included coercive and forceful actions such as imprisonment, assault and non-voluntary sterilization and abortion in Linyi city, Shandong province.  On Thursday, 24 August, he was sentenced to four years, three months imprisonment in a trial that excluded his own lawyers from participation.

“This action against Chen is surprising in light of China’s recent improvements in law and practice, which call for non-coercive reproductive health services,” said Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice and the leader of an interfaith delegation that traveled to China in 2003 to investigate its family planning practices.  “It demonstrates governmental ambivalence in implementing these policies.  International pressure—especially from those supportive of reproductive health—is essential to building Chinese resolve to respect the human rights of women regarding reproduction.”

Appalled by the treatment of Chen, the signatories of the letter stated: “We hope this resolution will include the release of Chen Guangcheng and associates as the result of proper due process and in conformation with international human rights standards.”

To view a copy of the letter, please click here.