Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong have refused to issue passports to the mother and brother of blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng for them to visit him in the United States.
Chen's elder brother, Chen Guangfu, said he and his 78-year-old mother had applied for passports to travel to New York to visit Chen, his wife and the couple's daughter. The blind activist is studying law at New York University after escaping from house arrest in China.
"The authorities wouldn't accept our application, and of course we are very disappointed," Chen Guangfu said in an interview this week, after the family's request was rejected earlier this month.
"My mother knows that she won't have many more opportunities to go and see her son in the U.S., and she wanted to go while her health still allowed it," he said.
Chen Guangfu said the authorities had told the family that it was very hard to get visas to the United States, and that the family were unlikely to be issued a visa without an invitation letter.
Officials said the family was also unable to prove a blood relationship with Chen Guangcheng on the basis of household registration documents or personal ID cards.
"Later, I managed to get hold of someone who works in the police department, and they told me that they were just making excuses not to process the application," Chen Guangfu said, adding that he planned to try again soon.
"I asked our village government to write a letter confirming our relationship with Guangcheng...but they'll probably just think up another excuse."
Beijing-based rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong said the reasons given by police, who must approve all applications for passports in the first instance, were ridiculous.
"The police haven't got a leg to stand on," Jiang said. "It is the right of a citizen to apply for, and get, a passport. It's the same as an ID card."
"The reasons given by police were laughable...It's for U.S. consular officials to decide whether or not to issue a visa."
Chen, a self-taught lawyer who exposed forced abortions and other abuses of official power under China's one-child policy, has been living and studying law in New York since arriving in the U.S. in May after a diplomatic standoff between Washington and Beijing.
After 18 months of house arrest in Shandong's Dongshigu village, Chen outwitted his guards and made his way to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, where Chinese and American officials eventually struck a deal allowing him and his family to go to New York to study.
His nephew, Chen Guangfu's son, is now imprisoned in the same jail where Chen himself spent several years, after being convicted of "intentional injury" in the wake of his uncle's escape.
Chen Kegui is serving a three-year sentence for his role defending himself from authorities in a raid on his home in the immediate aftermath of his uncle’s bid for freedom.
Reported by Lin Jing for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.