"Facts Have Blood as Evidence": Chen Guangcheng Exposed the Compulsory Abortions and Sterilisations Required to Enforce China's One-Child Policy. in This Interview, He Tells How, after Years of Persecution, He Had to Flee to America in May

New Statesman (1996), October 19, 2012 | Go to article overview

"Facts Have Blood as Evidence": Chen Guangcheng Exposed the Compulsory Abortions and Sterilisations Required to Enforce China's One-Child Policy. in This Interview, He Tells How, after Years of Persecution, He Had to Flee to America in May


Chen Guangcheng is a civil rights activist who grew up in the village of Dongshigu, Shandong Province. Blind from an early age, he taught himself law and has since dedicated his career to working on behalf of women's rights and the welfare of the poor. He has exposed alleged abuses in official family planning policy, involving claims of violence and forced abortions.

In 2005, Chen gained international renown for organising a class-action lawsuit against the city of Linyi, accusing officials of abuses relating to the enforcement of the one-child policy. Soon afterwards, he was placed under house arrest between August 2005 and March 2006 and was formally arrested in June that year. During his trial, Chen's attorneys were refused access to the court. On 24 August 2006, he was sentenced to more than four years in prison for "damaging property and organising a mob to disturb traffic". Chen was released from prison in 2010 after serving his full sentence but remained under house arrest. In April 2012, he fled to the US embassy in Beijing; only May, Chen, his wife and two children were granted US visas and left Beijing for New York.

On 26 September, Ai Weiwei and Chen conducted the following conversation for the New Statesman on Skype.

Ai Weiwei You understand the issues surrounding the one-child policy and have participated in relevant work on this topic. Could you discuss your views on it?

Chen Guangcheng Human life is of paramount importance to the traditional morals of Chinese culture. This concept has been trampled on by uncivilised policies and behaviour--including forced abortions--to the point of complete devastation.

After decades of violent abortions, people have lost almost all respect and regard for life. It isn't just ordinary parents who are affected by the one-child policy: friends, relatives and neighbours can also be implicated. And an inevitable result is an ageing society. But the most detrimental effect of the policy is the destruction of the value of life.

AW Can we talk more specifically about when this all started? When did you get involved?

CG This has always been an extremely serious issue. It was worse before the family planning laws were introduced in 2002. Because of the lack of rules, the government could do as it pleased. After the laws were introduced, however, the situation remained largely the same.

On 14 February 20o5, the Linyi municipality published an official red-tape document, to be distributed to the family planning departments of each county and village. Its main content is roughly this: it overestimated people's knowledge of the law, so it cannot reason with them according to the law; so it must retreat to the old approach. What is this old approach?

The old approach began in the 198os and continued until the end of the policy in 2002. It had slogans: "Sterilise when you should or lose your roof." "Abort when you should or lose the house." This meant that [the state] could seize a family's home and food and resell them cheaply. If you refused to undergo sterilisation, your house would be destroyed by bulldozers and tractors. They would use a wire rope, called "seed rope" at that time, and this would be tethered to a beam on a tractor. One pull, and the houses would collapse. This is what they mean by the old approach.

Some people committed suicide. The government would ridicule such acts of desperation. The person in charge of the local party committee and the family planning committee has said that suicide was no problem--"I won't take away the bottle if you want to take an overdose; I won't take away the rope if you want to hang yourself." So the 2002 law hasn't changed much. The destruction of the value of human life has continued.

AW How can a public policy cause so much damage to human rights, life and property?

CG This has to do with the system. Even after the family planning laws were introduced, the party still had a "veto by one vote" policy. …

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