Coercive Sterilization in China: Chen Guangcheng

Born in China’s eastern Shandong province, Chen Guangcheng, like all blind people at that time, was legally prohibited from pursuing a college degree. Though he could earn no law degree, he audited law classes and learned enough to help members of his community when they approached him for help with putting an end to the coerced abortions and sterilizations women were suffering in their village.

China’s “one-child” policy, which encourages population control through family-planning programs, has been in place for over two decades. This policy encourages small families, but coercive abortion and sterilization practices are forbidden by law. However, villagers in Linyi a city in eastern Shandong province reported that officials had initiated a forced abortion and sterilization campaign against women who they deemed ineligible to bear another child under the family-planning policy. According to the villagers’ reports at least two women had been forced to abort their babies just days before their due dates.

photo: Chen Guangcheng

source: AP

Chen Guangcheng responded by traveling to Beijing to publicize the reproductive abuses committed by local bureaucrats, in the hopes that higher-level officials would be pursuaded to step in and stop them. As a result of his advocacy the State Family Planning Commission called for the arrest of any local officials responsible for reproductive abuses. In September 2005, several health workers in Linyi were fired and one official was detained. Recognizing the power imbalances present in such a situation, Mr. Chen recently told reporters, “Someone has to fight for people with no voice. I guess that person is me.” Unfortunately, within hours of speaking to reporters in Beijing, Mr. Chen was shoved into an unmarked vehicle by public-security agents from his hometown. They transported Mr. Chen back to his hometown, where he was placed under house arrest for several months. In October 2005 he was assaulted at his home by unidentified assailants. In March 2005, he was arrested and sentenced for four years and three months for damaging property and disrupting traffic. Mr. Chen’s lawyers fought this conviction, arguing that he was really being punished for exposing the violations of China’s one-child policy and that China has a human rights record of being intolerant to dissent. In April 2006, Mr. Cheng lost his final appeal against this conviction and currently he remains in state custody as a result of his work to end forced sterilizations and reproductive abuses.

Serena Sebring - last update: November 30, 2007


Beech, Hannah. 2006. “Chen Guangcheng” Time. April 30, 2006. Available online:[,9171,1186887,00.html]. Accessed on: November 28, 2005.

“Chinese Campaigner Loses Appeal.” 2007. BBC News. January 12, 2007. Available online: []. Accessed on: November 28, 2005.

~ by Serena on November 30, 2007.

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