Blind Chinese rights activist Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠) said yesterday that a nephew, arrested on charges of attempted murder, was the victim of vengeful officials incensed at his escape, which cast a global spotlight on his 19 months under house arrest.
Chen confirmed reports that his nephew, Chen Kegui (陳克貴), was arrested on charges of attempted homicide over a confrontation that erupted after officials in their home village found Chen Guangcheng had escaped, defeating a seemingly impenetrable barrier of guards, video surveillance and walls.
His escape last month embarrassed China’s domestic security forces and led to a standoff with Washington after Chen Guangcheng sought protection for six days in the US embassy in Beijing.
Chen Guangcheng, who is now receiving treatment in a Beijing hospital and preparing to go to the US to study, said his nephew was a scapegoat of officials angered by his escape and demanded that they be investigated.
Asked why police in his home province of Shandong would arrest his nephew, Chen Guangcheng said: “Revenge.”
“I think this is revenge gone wild and it’s their final battle,” he said by telephone from the Beijing hospital where he is being kept.
Citing descriptions from relatives, Chen Guangcheng said his nephew acted in self-defense, picking up a kitchen cleaver after police and guards stormed into the home of Chen Guangcheng’s older brother, where he was staying, late at night.
Contention over the nephew is one of several uncertainties clouding Chen Guangcheng’s plans to spend time in the US after his escape put him at the heart of international negotiations and boosted his fame as a representative of China’s beleaguered “rights defense” movement.
Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught legal activist, came to national fame by campaigning for farmers and disabled citizens, and exposing forced abortions in the area around his hometown, where officials were under pressure to meet family planning goals.
In 2006, Chen Guangcheng was sentenced to more than four years in jail on charges — denied by his wife and lawyers — that he whipped up a crowd that disrupted traffic and damaged property.
He was formally released in 2010, but remained under house arrest.
Chen Guangcheng, 40, said he has received no word on his application for a passport, which he needs to leave for planned study at New York University.
Officials in Yinan County, Shandong, from where Chen -escaped from have not answered calls from reporters about the case and the charges against the nephew, Chen Kegui.
Chen Guangcheng said that his nephew had injured, but not killed, men who forced their way into his home after discovering Chen Guangcheng had fled, and he said his nephew acted in rightful self-defense.
“This was fully in keeping with legitimate action under Chinese criminal law and regulations. Nobody has the power to storm over a wall into someone’s home at midnight and then beat up people,” Chen Guangcheng said.
He repeated his demand that the central government investigate and punish the Shandong officials whom he accuses of turning his village home into a virtual prison where he and his family suffered beatings and abuse.
Chinese authorities have confiscated one lawyer’s license and threatened to do the same to another after they volunteered to defend Chen Kegui.