Thu, Apr 11, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Family of Chinese activist faces persecution, threats

HARASSMENT:The brother of Chen Guangcheng said his son has been threatened with life imprisonment if he should appeal his 39-month sentence for assault

AP, BEIJING

A brother of Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠) yesterday said that the family faces official persecution and threats despite assurances that they would be treated in accordance with Chinese law when the activist was allowed to leave the country after escaping from house arrest.

The self-taught rights lawyer’s escape from house arrest in eastern China in April last year set off a diplomatic tussle between Beijing and Washington before he was eventually allowed to move to the US.

US officials have said Beijing gave assurances that Chen’s relatives would be treated in accordance with Chinese law.

The latest accusations of harassment come a day after Chen told a US congressional panel in Washington that “persecution of my family has never stopped.”

Reached on his phone, Chen’s eldest brother, Chen Guangfu (陳光福), yesterday said his son, Chen Kegui (陳克貴), has been threatened with life imprisonment if he should appeal his 39-month sentence for assault. He was sentenced in November in a summary trial, seen as retaliation by local officials angered by his uncle’s escape.

Chen Guangfu said he met with a rights lawyer in Beijing yesterday about appealing his son’s jail sentence. He said the effort is likely to be fruitless, but he will still try.

“Since the law has given us the right to appeal, we will go through the procedure,” Chen Guangfu said, though he added that “we do not believe in Chinese law anymore.”

Chen Guangfu said his son was visited in jail in Linyi, Shangdong Province, by unidentified officials — likely either jail wardens or police officers — who told him that he would be locked up forever if he appealed. He said officials used the same tactic before his son’s trial last year, even hinting that his son’s young child might suffer if he did not cooperate.

Last month, a local township official attempted to pick up the four-year-old from kindergarten, but failed to give an explanation, Chen Guangfu said.

“She said she was told by the township to do that, but she refused to tell me the purpose,” he said.

On another occasion, he said he was followed by a man in a helmet and an army overcoat. He said he also has noticed several men have stayed overnight in a car at his village, but have never been able to confront them and identify them.

“I think our personal safety is in their hands,” he said.

In written testimony to the US panel, Chen Guangcheng criticized China’s harassment of his family and its human rights record.

“When it can willfully break agreements in a case that has attracted the world’s attention,” Chen wrote, “how can we expect it to improve the human rights situation in other areas and to take up its international responsibilities and obligations?”

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