Updated at 12:30 p.m. EST on 2012-08-08
Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong will try the nephew of blind dissident Chen Guangcheng for "intentional homicide" this week, a U.S.-based rights activist said.
Chen Kegui, who defended his family from an allegedly brutal attack after his uncle's daring escape from house arrest, will stand trial at a court in Shandong’s Yinan county on Friday, according to activist Wang Xuezhen.
Chen defended himself with a kitchen knife when “local government officials and their hired thugs” broke into his home, Chen Guangcheng has said. Several people were injured in the incident, including an official.
Wang, who is a friend of the family, said Chen Kegui's family hadn't received any documentation but that they had been told verbally that the trial would begin on Aug. 10.
"They told him it would be on Aug. 10, but there has been no formal documentation given to the relatives by the court," Wang said. "They asked the family members to be present, but there was no formal notice of a trial."
Lawyer Ding Xikui said he had still had no word from the authorities on the trial date, however.
"This is inappropriate, because we had an agreement with the prosecutor's office that they would give us all the paperwork, and tell us if the case was going ahead," he said.
Ding, who wrote a letter to the Yinan county police in May complaining about their refusal to let him meet with Chen Kegui, said there had still been no response.
"Their refusal to let us meet is illegal," he said.
Wang said he believed the local authorities had deliberately scheduled Chen's trial a day after the murder trial of Gu Kailai, wife of ousted Chongqing Communist Party boss Bo Xilai, in the eastern province of Anhui, to avoid international attention.
"Of course there won't be any foreign journalists gathered there on Aug. 10," he said. "Most of the diplomats and Beijing-based correspondents will be putting all their energy into [what is going on in] Anhui."
"They won't have the manpower to get over to Shandong on the 10th to focus on Chen Kegui, so they are using the timing to hold Chen Kegui's trial in a blind spot."
Chen Kegui has been refused permission to meet with lawyers hired by his family.
Chen Guangcheng's escape in April from his closely guarded home and subsequent flight to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, where he sought refuge for nearly a week, came just ahead of annual strategic dialogues between U.S. and Chinese officials, prompting a diplomatic crisis and frantic behind-the-scenes negotiations.
The diplomatic crisis was defused after Chen was allowed to fly to New York, where he is now a special student in law at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute of New York University.
Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia, a close friend who met briefly with Chen Guangcheng after he emerged from the U.S. Embassy, said the trial of Chen Kegui is an attempt by the local government to get back at Chen Guangcheng for the embarrassment he caused them.
"The fact that they are moving so quickly to trial suggests that this is revenge against Chen Guangcheng," Hu said. "Hasn't he been speaking out, criticizing, and calling for an investigation and punishment?"
"[They are basically saying] we have a hostage here, so we'll see if that gives you pause....They have a few tricks up their sleeve to counter the things he's been saying overseas."
Chen Guangcheng accused Beijing last week of failing to honor its pledge to investigate abuses that he and his family were subjected to in China, as he met with top U.S. lawmakers in Washington.
The blind activist has said that he and his family experienced illegal detention and brutal beatings while under house arrest, and that Beijing had promised him it would sack those officials responsible for the mistreatment.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that lawyer Ding Xikui, instead of activist Wang Xuezhen, had said the trial would be Aug. 10.