Chronology of the case of Chen Guangcheng, a blind lawyer persecuted for exposing official abuses in China
Chen Guangcheng is a blind lawyer whom Chinese authorities have repeatedly persecuted for his role in exposing official abuses. Chen was arbitrarily detained in August 2005; his formal detention began on June 10, 2006. On August 24, 2006, he was sentenced to four years and three months in prison. Chen was released on September 9, 2010, after serving his full sentence, but following his release he and his wife were subjected to unlawful house arrest.
Chen learns of family planning abuses in Linyi city, Shandong province and begins his own investigation.
After Chen organizes a class-action lawsuit, he travels to Beijing to consult with legal scholars and lawyers and to meet with the press. The suit was filed, only to be rejected. Chen's findings are revealed on the Internet and through the foreign press.
August 12, 2005
Chen and family are imprisoned in their own home. Twenty to 300 officials and civilians who appear to work in concert with the police maintain round the clock watch.
September 6, 2005
Chen manages to escape to Beijing, where he is apprehended by Linyi city officials and threatened with a long prison term if he does not stop his activism. When he refuses, he is returned to effective house arrest in Dongshigu, his home village.
Lawyers and legal experts who had earlier posted Chen's findings on the Internet organize to defend him.
September 19, 2005
The National Population and Family Planning Commission (NPFPC), responding to the concerns raised about Linyi, reports that "illegal family planning practices that violate people's legal rights and interests do exist. Those who are responsible have been dismissed from duty. Some are under investigation, some are in detention."
October 4, 2005
Lawyers Li Fangping and Li Subin and law lecturer Xu Zhiyong attempt to visit Chen and to negotiate with local officials for an end to the enforced isolation. After two of the three were beaten, police interrogate all three, then escort them back to Beijing the following day.
October 24, 2005
Local officials beat Chen to prevent him from leaving his house to meet with two Beijing scholars, then refuse to permit him to seek medical assistance.
March 11, 2006
Chen is "disappeared" from his home. His family is told nothing about his whereabouts for three months.
June 11, 2006
Yinan county officials acknowledge that they have Chen in custody; his formal detention is dated June 10.
June 18, 2006
An interrogator warns Chen that there is nothing abnormal "if someone dies in the detention center."
June 19, 2006
Family, lawyers, legal experts and activist friends cancel a press conference in Beijing after security officers prevent would-be participants from leaving their homes. On the same day, some 10 men, who did not identify themselves, use force to remove Chen's 70-year-old mother, his 3-year old son, and his older brother from legal expert Teng Biao's Beijing home, and return them to their homes in Dongshigu village, Shandong. University officials tell two Beijing law professors - Teng Biao from the Chinese University of Politics and Law and Xu Zhiyong from Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications - to stay away from the case.
June 21, 2006
The Yinan County People's Procuratorate approves Chen's arrest. Chen's lawyers, Li Jinsong and Zhang Lihui, are able to visit him, but prison officials interfere with their ability to interview Chen. For example, they refuse to allow him to respond to certain questions.
June 22, 2006
Local police officers take lawyer Li Jinsong in for questioning. Local assailants beat three lawyers defending villagers jailed for supporting Chen. Police officers look on as the lawyers' cameras are smashed, then take the three in for questioning.
June 23, 2006
Lawyers Li Jinsong and Li Subin try to visit Chen's wife, but are stopped and beaten by guards.
June 24, 2006
All lawyers return to Beijing. An unidentified caller warns lawyer Li Jinsong that he is "seeking death."
June 27, 2006
Li Jinsong and Li Subin return to Shandong on June 27, only to be harassed by assailants while the police again stand by. Some 20 men overturn the lawyers' car and smash their cameras. Police take Li Jinsong in for questioning again.
July 7, 2006
Li Jinsong announces Chen's trial is scheduled for July 17, 2006. The trial is subsequently postponed.
August 24, 2006
Chen is convicted of "intentionally damaging property and gathering crowds to disturb transport order" and sentenced to four years and three months in prison.
September 9, 2010
Chen is released from Linyi Prison in Shandong Province, after having served his full sentence of four years and three months (his formal detention having begun on June 10, 2006). However, Chen and his wife Yuan Weijing remain under unlawful house arrest.
An hour-long video covertly filmed by Chen Guangcheng and his wife, Yuan Weijing, documenting the draconian conditions of confinement they suffered, was released by ChinaAid. They were reportedly severely beaten after the video was made public.
Chinese citizens, diplomats and foreign journalists from news agencies, including CNN, the New York Times and Le Monde, who tried to visit Chen Guangcheng were threatened and, in some cases, attacked.
Increasing numbers of Chinese citizens have attempted to break the unlawful blockade around Chen Guangcheng’s home in order to visit him and express support. These activists invariably encounter obstruction by police and plainclothes thugs who appear to operate at official behest who unlawfully detain them and prevent them from reaching Chen’s hometown in Dongshigu, Linyi County of Shandong Province. Some activists have reportedly been beaten and robbed in their attempts to reach Chen’s village.
Chen Guangcheng and Yuan Weijing were reportedly brutally beaten for four hours by the local mayor and other officials, in the presence of their daughter.
Chen Guangcheng’s six-year old daughter, Chen Kesi, was reportedly allowed to attend school after previously being barred. Operation Free Chen Guangcheng — attempts to visit Chen Guangcheng by dozens of Chinese citizens and activists — has intensified.
On October 27, the U.S.-based film production firm Relativity Media announced the start of production on its first joint venture film, the “first of many projects that Relativity plans to shoot and do post-production work on in China.” The announcement touted close connection with local officials, especially the Linyi Municipal Committee of the CPC. The announcement prompted criticism from Human Rights Watch, local activists and other human rights organizations that Relativity Media had disregarded the persecution and torture of Chen Guangcheng carried out in the very county they were filming in. These groups urged Relativity Media to cease collaboration with local government officials responsible for human rights abuses and apologize to Chen Guangcheng and his family.
On the night of April 22, 2012, Chen Guangcheng escaped from his home, in which he had been illegally confined by the local authorities since his release from prison 19 months earlier. He was driven to Beijing by He Peirong, an activist who has long campaigned for Chen's freedom, and Chen is understood now to be under the protection of US diplomats. Chen's wife, mother and children remain under house arrest. His brother, Chen Guangfu has been arrested by the police following a violent confrontation in involving government officials in his home. Chen Guangcheng’s nephew, Chen Kegui, the son of Chen Guangfu, is on the run from the police as a result. Activists close to Chen, including Hu Jia and He Peirong, were held by security forces shortly after news of his escape was known. Hu Jia was released after a 24 hour detention.
In a video Chen released on April 27, 2012, he appealed directly to Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, asking for an end to his unlawful home imprisonment, the prosecution of local officials who abused him and his family, and an investigation to find out who was ultimately responsible for his treatment. On April 30, the New York Times cited an unnamed "Senior American official" as acknowledging that Chen was under US protection and that high level negotiations about Chen's fate were taking place.