A blind Chinese activist against forced abortions and sterilizations has reportedly been put under house arrest. Chen Guangcheng had been preparing a class-action lawsuit charging local officials with abusive population control practices in and around Linyi, a city of ten-million people in China's eastern province of Shandong.
"They dragged me into the car, and my legs were hurt in quite a few places," Mr. Chen said of the local officials from Linyi. "Some of them pulled my hair and banged my head onto the wheel and hit my face and head." Hs said the main purpose of the home detention was to intimidate him.
Local authorities falsely accuse Mr. Chen of revealing information to foreign media and illegally providing intelligence to foreign countries. Mr. Chen has vowed to press ahead with his lawsuit.
Under Chinese law, most married couples are permitted to have only one child unless they apply for permission to have more. Those who violate the law are heavily fined or otherwise penalized. According to the U.S. State Department's human rights report, local enforcement of the law varies, and in some locations, Chinese officials have pressured women with multiple children to undergo sterilization and abortion. That is the case in the area of Linyi city in Shandong province, says Mr. Chen.
Mr. Chen began gathering complaints earlier this year about population-control abuses committed by authorities in Linyi city and the surrounding county of Yinan. Since March, farmers in the area have told Mr. Chen that local authorities have been raiding the homes of families with two children and demanding that at least one parent be sterilized. Women pregnant with a third child have been forced by local officials to have abortions, says Mr. Chen. And he says that when parents have tried to hide, local authorities have jailed their relatives and neighbors, beating them and holding them hostage until the parents turn themselves in.
No government official at any level in China should be forcing individuals to undergo sterilization or abortion. "What these officials are doing is completely illegal," said Mr. Chen. "They've committed widespread violations of citizens' basic rights, and they should be held responsible."
In responding to similar complaints in the past, authorities in Beijing have acknowledged that such practices are prohibited under Chinese law. The Chinese government should intervene to instruct local authorities to release Mr. Chen from house arrest and permit him to pursue his lawsuit. The charges that Mr. Chen has worked hard to document are extremely serious, and, if substantiated, should be prosecuted under China’s legal system.
It is time for the Chinese government to make greater efforts to ensure its own laws are enforced, and that abuses such as those highlighted by Mr. Chen are stopped.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.