DONGSHIGU, China, December 22, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Chinese authorities have converted an entire village into a prison in order to prevent Chen Guangcheng, a blind, pro-life dissident, from moving freely about the country, according to a recent report by the French magazine Liberation.

“The picturesque hamlet, situated close to a national highway, might resemble thousands of others in that part of the northeast of China.  No one, however, is authorized to enter Dongshigu, nor to communicate with its inhabitants,” writes Liberation’s China correspondent, Phillipe Grangerou.  “All of the telephone lines were cut months ago. The antenna of the local mobile telephone service has been disconnected, and six surveillance cameras have been placed around the perimeter.”

In addition to the communications blackout and electronic surveillance, the town is guarded by about forty armed men dressed in military garb, who maintain a checkpoint for the few people permitted to come and go.  “This group of men terrorizes all of us. But they have been sent by the [Communist] Party committee of the province, so there’s nothing that can be done about it,” one resident reportedly said.

According to Grangerou, the sophisticated security operation surrounding the town of Dongshigu exists for the sole purpose of preventing any contact between Chen and the outside world.  Chen and his wife live under house arrest inside their residence, and the only person permitted to enter or leave is an aged relative, who is allowed the privilege only to make minor purchases for the home.

Chen’s troubles stem from his decision in 2005 to file a lawsuit against the local provincial government for carrying out thousands of forced abortions and sterilizations against the population, a practice that is common in China as a means of enforcing the nation’s “one child policy.”

Under the policy, the Chinese government only permits urban dwellers to have one child, and rural dwellers to have two children, in an attempt to restrain population growth.  Those who violate the law are subject to severe penalties, which in many areas include forced abortion and sterilization, as well as confiscation of property and massive fines. Although the Chinese government officially prohibits forced abortions, it penalizes local governments that fail to keep the population in check, creating an incentive for them to carry out such measures, which are rarely penalized.

Although Chen lost the case, he revealed his documentation to Time magazine in a 2005 interview, which led to his house arrest and trial.  After detaining his entire legal team on the eve of the proceedings, the Chinese government sentenced Chen to four years in prison.  He says that he was beaten by fellow inmates at the behest of guards when he insisted on filing an appeal.

During his imprisonment, Chen received increasing international attention. His treatment was condemned by the U.S. State Department, and he won the prestigious Magsaysay award, the Asian equivalent of the Nobel prize. His wife was arrested while attempting to board a flight to the Philippines to accept the award in her husband’s name, and she was placed under house arrest, where she was joined by her husband this year, following the completion of his sentence.

The Chinese government’s fear of a blind attorney who did little more than exercise his legal rights in the nation’s court system reflects a generalized attitude towards those who publicly question the Communist Party’s dictatorial rule.  Although China’s government has gradually liberated the nation’s economic system from socialist management, it continues to apply severe and arbitrary penalties against dissenters, in the face of growing international condemnation.

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