China activists 'robbed, beaten' near lawyer's home

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Two Chinese activists -- including a Buddhist nun -- said they were robbed and beaten this week as they tried to reach human rights campaigner Chen Guangcheng, who is under house arrest in eastern China.

Chen, a blind, 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.

"I was dragged out of the car, robbed, harassed, had a bag tied to my head, was suffocated with a jacket, thrown out into a field, in a pool of water," said Liu Shasha in a posting on Twitter dated September 19 -- the day after she and fellow activist Miao Jue tried to reach Chen.

"I was bleeding from the beating, and dumped in the middle of nowhere."

Miao, a Buddhist nun, said 20 men dragged the women to a house where they were robbed of their mobile phones and money.

"They covered our heads with bags and threw us out (separately) from the car in the middle of nowhere," Miao said on Twitter.

AFP calls to local police went unanswered and Miao and Liu could not be reached on their mobile phones.

A number of foreign reporters and Chinese supporters of Chen who have attempted to reach him have also been roughed up or beaten, according to the journalists, US-based rights group ChinaAid and Radio Free Asia.

Chen made headlines earlier this year with the release of a self-made video smuggled from his home. In the video 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.

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.