In China, human rights activists report being attacked by some 100 thugs Sunday when they tried to visit activist Chen Guangcheng, who has been illegally confined to his house.
Liu Li knew he might not be able to get to see the blind barefoot lawyer Chen Guangcheng on Sunday. After all, Mr. Chen, a persistent thorn in the Chinese government’s side, has been under heavily guarded house arrest for more than a year. But Mr. Liu did not expect to return on crutches from his attempted visit.
“About seven or eight men rushed up to me, kicked me to the ground, stole my cellphone, smashed my ankle and knocked me out,” Liu recalled Tuesday. “And the police did nothing when I reported what had happened.”
Liu was one of a group of around 40 activists who were attacked and beaten by more than 100 thugs on Sunday afternoon outside the village of Dongshigu in the eastern province of Shandong where Chen has been illegally locked up in his house with his family since being released from jail in September last year.
“I did not think the situation was so dark,” said Liu. “There is no law in that area.”
The violence marked the second weekend in a row that unidentified thugs have violently broken up efforts by human rights activists and ordinary citizens to visit Chen in a burgeoning campaign to win his freedom.
“Though it is extremely costly for the activists, [the campaign] is bringing a lot of attention to Chen’s case and there are chances that it could ultimately succeed if the pressure continues,” suggests Nicolas Bequelin, a China analyst with Human Rights Watch.
Chen has been under round-the-clock guard in his home village since being released at the end of a 51-month jail sentence he had incurred on charges of disrupting traffic. Human rights activists say the real reason he was imprisoned was his vigorous defense of women who had been forcibly sterilized in abuses of China’s one child policy.