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Foreign reporters roughed up near China activist Chen Guangcheng’s home

Posted by Author on February 16, 2011

By Pascale Trouillaud (AFP)-

BEIJING — Foreign reporters were roughed up this week as they tried to reach blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, who is under house arrest in eastern China, journalists said Wednesday.

Chen, a self-taught lawyer who gained world attention by exposing abuses in China’s “one-child” population control policy, has been under harsh restrictions since completing a more than four-year jail sentence in September.

“We were roughly pushed away from Chen’s home” by about a dozen men, said Brice Pedroletti, a journalist with French newspaper Le Monde.
Stephane Lagarde, a journalist with Radio France Internationale, said thugs at Chen’s village of Dongshigu in the city of Linyi also seized the memory card of his digital recorder and his China reporter credentials.

One man threatened to hit him with a brick.

“These peasants from the area are recruited for this type of purpose and repelled us very forcefully,” he said, while adding he was not beaten.

A New York Times journalist and photographer were also involved in an incident, a spokeswoman for the US newspaper said, but declined to give further details.

“Our reporter and the photographer are safe and physically fine,” said the spokeswoman, Danielle Rhoades Ha.

The incidents prompted a warning from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China to its members attempting to cover Chen.

“In recent days several correspondents have encountered groups of violent, plainclothes thugs,” it said in a statement, adding some had their cars damaged by mobs and that police failed to come to their aid on at least one occasion.

“Since being told about the incidents, the police appear to have done nothing to rectify the situation or rein in these groups of thugs,” it said.

A local police official denied any such incidents when contacted by AFP.

“It is impossible that our police would hire people to beat journalists. Journalists are free to go and interview him (Chen),” said the woman, who gave only her surname, Gao.

However, Chen’s village has been under virtual lockdown since his release last year, guarded by a round-the-clock team of police and plainclothes enforcers.

Chen made headlines last week with the release of a daring, self-made video smuggled from his home. In the clip he rails at his house arrest, which he calls “illegal”, and at the “hooligan methods” of local authorities.

After the video was made, both Chen and his wife Yuan Weijing were beaten by police, human rights activists have said.

A number of Chen’s Chinese supporters who have attempted to reach him have also been beaten, US-based rights group ChinaAid said.

Chen gained fame — and triggered official ire — by exposing widespread late-term abortions and forced sterilisations under China’s “one child” policy.

He was arrested in 2006 and later convicted of “willfully harming public property” and “gathering masses to disturb traffic order” after a public rally by supporters.


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