BEIJING, September 7, 2005 ( – Chinese authorities arrested yesterday an activist who campaigned against the country’s forced abortion policy – a measure aimed at preventing the man from meeting with sympathizers in the ruling Communist regime.

Chen Guangcheng, 34, a blind farmer from the rural region near the city of Linyi, initiated a class-action suit against the government after a concentrated effort to implement the country’s forced-abortion policy began in the region in March.

The policy requires that parents with two children be sterilized, and that women pregnant with a third be forcibly aborted. Family members of pregnant women who hid from authorities were arrested and tortured to persuade the women to turn themselves in to so-called family-planning authorities for the abortions.

Chen has been collecting and recording stories all summer, in order to present his case to sympathetic senior-level family planning authorities in Beijing. “What these officials are doing is completely illegal,” Chen said, according to a Washington Post report from before his arrest, August 26. “They’ve committed widespread violations of citizens’ basic rights, and they should be held responsible.”

The Post recounted the experiences of one woman from Maxiagou village, in another rural part of Linyi, Feng Zhongxia, 36. She described how, seven months pregnant, authorities detained 12 members of her family, denying their freedom until she submitted to an abortion.

“My aunts, uncles, cousins, my pregnant younger sister, my in-laws, they were all taken to the family planning office,” Feng said. “Many of them didn’t get food or water, and all of them were severely beaten.”

Family planning officials “told me they would peel the skin off my relatives and I would only see their corpses if I didn’t come back,” Feng said. After turning herself in, a doctor inserted a needle into her uterus. The next day she delivered the dead baby. “It was a small life,” she said.

After the abortion, she was forcibly sterilized as well. “I’m a human being,” she said. How can they treat me like that?”

A senior family planning official in Beijing, Yu Xuejin, said he had asked the Linyi provincial authorities to investigate reports of abuse. He maintained the forcible practices utilized by the family planning officials against the farmers in Yinli province were “definitely illegal.”

See Washington Post coverage:

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