Just weeks after blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng crawled over walls and rivers and hid in pigsties to escape from house arrest in his home village in Shandong province, his brother has slipped past the same guards and driven to Beijing in search of legal backing.
Chen Guangfu told Hong Kong's TVB news that he had left his home village in Yinan county in the early hours of Tuesday morning, slipping past the dozens of guards placed there by local authorities since Chen Guangcheng's house arrest began in September 2010.
He said he had arrived in Beijing on Wednesday evening following a six-hour drive.
Chen said he had ignored police threats that if he tried to leave, the authorities would hand a tougher sentence to Chen Kegui, and possibly even execute him.
"They trumped up charges against Chen Guangcheng and I helped him out," he told the station. "Even if I'm guilty, that doesn't make the rest of my family guilty."
Chen Guangfu, who still plans to return home at some point, hit out at the authorities' actions as having "no basis in law."
Beijing-based rights lawyer Liu Weiguo said Chen Guangfu's main aim in escaping to the capital was to find help on behalf of his son, Chen Kegui, who is facing trial for "deliberate homicide."
"He wanted to confirm some matters with the law firm. He is still putting his faith in lawyers like us, rather than those appointed by the state," Liu said.
"He is also still trying to meet with his daughter-in-law [Chen Kegui's wife, Liu Fang]," he added. "Everyone has been very worried about her for a long time now."
Calls to the mobile phone of Chen Kegui's lawyer Ding Xikui went unanswered during office hours on Thursday.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei sidestepped questions about Chen Kegui on Thursday.
"China is a country ruled by law, and Chinese citizens' legitimate rights and interests are protected by the Constitution," Hong told a regular news briefing in Beijing.
He added: "At the same time, they must respect the law."
Chen Guangcheng, who has been keeping a low profile since arriving in New York last weekend, met with U.S.-based Christian rights activist Bob Fu, founder of the Texas-based group ChinaAid.
A photograph posted on the group's website showed a cheerful-looking Chen, his plastered foot resting on a footstool, posing with Fu.
"He hasn't been here very long, and he is still adjusting to the time difference," Fu said on Thursday.
He said Chen Guangcheng had learned of his brother's escape. "He saw it in the media," Fu said. "He is really hoping that his brother will take care of himself and pay attention to his personal safety."
Meeting the press
Fu said Chen Guangcheng would likely meet with journalists "very soon."
Beijing-based activist Wang Lihong said via Twitter that Chen Guangcheng had told him that he was very concerned for the welfare of all his friends and supporters back in China.
"He said he hopes everyone will take care of themselves, and that he will be on Twitter himself in a couple of days," Wang tweeted.
Lawyers hired by Liu Fang to represent Chen Kegui say they have been prevented from meeting their client, who is facing trial for "intentional homicide" in the wake of his uncle's flight to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing earlier this month.
Citing Article 23 of China’s Legal Aid Regulations, Ding Xikui has argued that in the letter that he and Si Weijiang are Chen Kegui’s lawful attorneys, having been authorized by Chen’s wife to represent her husband, and that the government-appointed legal aid lawyers should stop providing legal assistance to Chen Kegui.
Reported by Grace Kei Lai-see for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.