Fears for Chen Family, Supporters

Chinese authorities harass and detain activist's relatives, beating one.
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A protester is removed by police from outside the Chaoyang Hospital in Beijing where Chen Guangcheng is staying, May 4, 2012.
A protester is removed by police from outside the Chaoyang Hospital in Beijing where Chen Guangcheng is staying, May 4, 2012.

Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, currently awaiting permission to travel to the U.S. after seeking sanctuary at the American embassy in Beijing, said on Tuesday he is "very concerned" for his extended family, especially his nephew who is being detained in eastern Shandong province.

"I am very concerned for my family, in particular my nephew Chen Kegui's situation," Chen said in an interview from his bed in Beijing's Chaoyang Hospital on Tuesday.

"They have locked my nephew up in there, and then when his wife went to hire a lawyer, she was taken for a 'chat' and lost her freedom," he said in an earlier interview on Monday.

"Now they can't find my nephew's wife."

Chen said he had filed an official complaint on Tuesday with central government officials, but that there has been no progress on his application to leave China.

"There have been no new developments today," said Chen, whose wife, Yuan Weijing, and the couple's two young children are staying with him in his hospital room.

While Chen, whose right foot is in plaster, has been told not to move around, Yuan said she still has to pass security checks before being allowed out to buy food for the family.
"I have been staying in the same room as Guangcheng here at the hospital, but I'm not really free to go out," Yuan said.

"There are security guards on the gates, and they ask me questions if I want to go out to buy anything."

"Then they have to ask [their bosses] if it's all right before they let me go out," she said.

Relatives detained

While Chen's safety has been guaranteed under the terms of a deal hammered out in secret between U.S. and Chinese officials, his relatives and supporters have enjoyed no such protection, however.

A Shandong-based source who declined to be named said Chen Kegui is currently being held in the Yinan county detention center, where he has been beaten.

Chen Kegui's mother has been released on bail, while his father was under close police surveillance, the source said.

"His relatives told me that he was beaten up a few times just after they locked him up in there," the source said. "It was pretty bad."

"His mother already got out on bail, charged with sheltering a criminal. His father is forbidden to leave the village, and he's not allowed to make any phone calls."

Beijing-based lawyer Liu Weiguo said he is part of a group of prominent rights attorneys who have offered to work on the case, and would also represent his mother.

"[We are] not just representing Chen Kegui, but also his mother," Liu said on Tuesday. "We will definitely be requesting a meeting; we are in a big hurry to do that."

"We have a large legal team, but we haven't yet assigned a [specific] lawyer. We will be consulting about this and weighing all the factors."

Lawyers harassed

Lawyers attempting to represent the family have already fallen foul of the authority in recent days, lawyers said.

Mo Zhixu, head of the Gongmeng public interest law firm, said via Twitter that one lawyer who had volunteered, Song Ze, had been incommunicado for the past two days.

Meanwhile, Chen said central government officials have visited him to take the details of his complaint about mistreatment and house arrest at the hands of officials in his home county of Yinan, near Linyi city, Shandong.

"They were from the State Bureau of Letters and Visits. Because I can't move right now, I had to ask them to help me process the complaint," he said.

"They said [they were willing to help me]. I asked them to carry out a full and public investigation in Shandong," Chen said.

"They said they would investigate it, and they would proceed according to law, as long as the facts were there. That's how they put it."

Chen said he had asked them to focus in particular on Liu Jie, head of the Linyi police department, and on Li Qun, former Linyi municipal Party secretary.

Supporter held

Meanwhile, Beijing-based rights activist Zeng Jinyan, who sent a number of tweets on Chen's behalf following his escape, said she was being held under house arrest at her home in the capital.

"Yes, that's right," Zeng said on Tuesday, when asked if she was still under house arrest. But she added: "I can't give interviews ... sorry," before hanging up the phone.

Chen's daring escape from house arrest to the shelter of the U.S. embassy last month sparked a diplomatic row between Washington and Beijing, with China calling on the U.S. to apologize for interfering in its internal affairs.

Chen has since been told he "may apply" to study overseas.

U.S. State Department officials said on Monday they stand ready to expedite visa applications for Chen and his family as soon as they have the right documents.

Chen, 40, who spent four years in jail and nearly 20 months under house arrest after exposing forced abortions and sterilizations under China's draconian "one-child" policy, has been offered a place as a visiting student at New York University's law school.

Reported by Lin Yuetong, Hai Nan, and Grace Kei Lai-see for RFA's Cantonese service, and by Xin Yu for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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