The brother of blind activist Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠) has fled his village in eastern China, evading a security clampdown to seek help from lawyers for his son, who has been detained in a case that has become a rallying point among rights activists.
Chen Guangfu (陳光福), the eldest brother of Chen Guangcheng, said he walked out of his home in Shandong Province at 3am on Tuesday, eluding the increased number of sentries near his village by avoiding roads and running through fields. He arrived in Beijing on Wednesday evening after a six-hour journey by car.
His activist brother escaped Dongshigu village late last month after 19 months of detention at home, following a similar route to the capital, before taking refuge in the US embassy, where he stayed for six days, sparking a diplomatic crisis between China and the US.
That crisis, which overshadowed a visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, was finally defused on Saturday when China allowed Chen Guangcheng to fly to the US to study, but while Chen Guangcheng spent his first few days in New York after years of jail and detention, most of his family back home in Shandong have remained under a security clampdown.
In a rare interview since his brother escaped last month, 55-year-old Chen Guangfu recounted details of his own torture and reprisals by authorities since his brother’s escape.
He said he was restricted from leaving the village and that police in Shandong warned him they would increase the sentence for his son, Chen Kegui (陳克貴), who is being held on an attempted murder charge, if he gave interviews.
“I feel since they are already doing this, why can’t I say something?” Chen Guangfu said late on Wednesday in a teahouse in western Beijing. “I have the power to speak up.”
“I told them their claims have no legal basis, but are based on power or by their will to determine Kegui’s sentence. On this point, I’ll never be able to accept it,” he said, adding that he planned to return to his village soon.
Local government and public security bureau officials were not immediately available for comment.
Chen Kegui, 32, was charged with “intentional homicide” for using knives to fend off local officials who burst into his home on April 27, the day after they discovered his blind uncle had escaped. He could face the death penalty. His lawyers, denied access to him on Friday, said he did not kill anyone.
Chen Guangfu’s wife, Ren Zongju (任宗舉), may also be indicted for “harboring” her son, a charge punishable by up to 10 years jail, lawyers said. She was detained on April 29 and freed on bail.
His daughter-in-law, Liu Fang (劉芳), has been in Beijing for the past three weeks seeking lawyers for her husband.
Reprisals began soon after Chen Guangchen’s escape was discovered. Just after midnight on April 27, men in plainclothes scaled the walls of Chen Guangfu’s home and kicked open the doors. They put a hood over him and took him to a police building. There, he said, they handcuffed him, bound his feet in iron chains, slapped him and stomped on his feet.
His captors lifted his handcuffed hands from the back so he could not sit straight and used his belt to whip his hands. The beatings lasted “a long time” and his left thumb lost feeling, he said.
“How did Guangcheng escape?” police asked him repeatedly.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that Chen Guangcheng was a “free citizen” after his release from jail in 2010, but the walls and guards that penned him in his home, keeping supporters and reporters out, reflect the pervasive informal controls used to throttle dissent in China.