Saturday 20 January 2018

Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng's brother flees guarded village

Chen Guangcheng. Photo: AP
Chen Guangcheng. Photo: AP

Malcolm Moore, Beijing

THE BROTHER of the blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng has become the second member of the family to escape from their heavily guarded village in northern China.

Chen Guangfu, 55, slipped out of his home in the tiny village of Dongshigu at 3am on Tuesday, dodging a ring of sentries by running through wheat fields. He arrived in Beijing on Wednesday evening after a six-hour car journey.

Mr Chen’s younger brother, Guangcheng, caused a diplomatic crisis between the United States and China last month after breaking out from house arrest and sheltering in the American embassy. Last week, he flew to New York with his family for what he hopes will be a temporary exile.

Chen Guangfu said that he had been tortured in the wake of his brother’s escape and prevented from leaving the village. His son, Kegui, has been charged with attempted murder after raising a knife at local officials. His wife, Ren Zongju, may also be charged with “harbouring” her son.

Reprisals against the Chen family began on April 27, shortly after Guangcheng’s escape was detected. Chen Guangfu said men had climbed over the walls of the family’s home and kicked open its doors. They hooded him and took him to a police building, where he was handcuffed and his feet bound. He told Reuters that they had beat him for “a long time” and that they had used his belt to whip his hands until he had partially lost feeling.

When asked by the police for an account of his brother’s escape, he said that he had a family obligation to help him. “I don’t think he is a criminal. I don’t think I am in the wrong for helping a free citizen,” he told them.

His 32-year-old son, Chen Kegui, is being held in a detention centre in Yinan and authorities have barred family and the lawyers they chose from visiting or representing him.

Mr Chen escaped to Beijing in order to seek legal help for Kegui, according to Ding Xikui, one of the lawyers he met in the capital. “He came for legal advice. Their house is still under siege and their son is forbidden from hiring a lawyer or meeting with a lawyer,” said Mr Ding. “I have been to try to see him twice and have been stopped. I do not know when the trial will begin,” he said.

Police at the Yinan detention center have told Mr Ding that government-appointed attorneys will be representing Chen Kegui instead.

"I think this is unfair and illegal," said Chen Guangfu. "Based on my understanding of Chen Kegui, he will never refuse the intervention of outside counsel. From Guangcheng's case, he understands thoroughly that these so-called 'legal aid lawyers' are useless."

He added that he was "extremely pessimistic" about his son's prospects.

Chen Kegui's wife, Liu Fang, told Reuters that she hoped her husband's case would be treated like "a normal, criminal case". Her 5-year-old son, Chen Fubin, is back in Shandong.

"He (Chen Kegui) must be heavily injured, I'm worried about his physical state," she said. "Inside, he might be subject to beatings."

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