Chinese blind rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng said on Tuesday that the four-year-old son of his jailed nephew has become a new target of official harassment aimed at silencing him for speaking out against government abuses.
Chen, who is studying in the U.S. after escaping house arrest, said that last month that a government official from Yinan county in eastern China’s Shandong province attempted to remove the son of his nephew Chen Kegui, who is serving a 3 ¼-year jail term, from his school.
The official, he said, was from the office in charge of birth control policies, the abuses of which Chen had campaigned vehemently against as part of his human rights activism in China.
“On March 7, an official from the local family planning office, Xu Xicai, was asked by the local party leaders to go to the local kindergarten to remove Chen Kegui’s four-year-old son,” Chen Guangcheng said in Washington at a congressional hearing.
“Fortunately, on that day Kegui’s father—which is my eldest brother, Chen Guangfu—was one step ahead of him,” he told the hearing conducted by the global human rights panel of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Chen Guangcheng said that a school official had questioned Xu about who had sent him to take Chen Kegui’s son.
“Xu said it was the [local] Communist Party Secretary who asked him to do it.”
Chen Guangcheng said that just days later, on March 11, his older brother reported being followed by “a man in a helmet” as he took the child to school.
Chen Guangcheng said that he believed the harassment was part of a bid by the local government in Yinan county to keep him quiet about rights abuses in China by intimidating his family members.
“This is probably what they meant by saying that … my family members’ lives are in the hands of the authorities,” he said, referring to threats he had received while living under house arrest in Yinan's Dongshigu village prior to his escape to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and subsequent travel to New York to study law.
Chen Kegui was sentenced to prison in November after being convicted for injuring officials who he said entered his home and attacked him and his family after they learned of his uncle’s flight.
Chen Kegui’s father Chen Guangfu recently met with him in detention in Shandong and learned that he had suffered physical abuse from authorities, who told him that his sentence would be extended to life in prison if he tried to appeal the conviction.
Chen Guangcheng on Tuesday spoke of the “child of another legal defender [who] was also taken away about nine days after my nephew’s son was almost taken” and “various other rights defenders’ children being [threatened],” without providing details.
“These are absolutely planned incidents—planned by the authorities,” he said.
Chen Kegui is the most noted victim of what Chen Guangcheng says is a campaign mounted against his family to stop him from speaking out against China since he arrived in the U.S. in May last year.
In October, a court in Yinan county refused a counter lawsuit by Chen Guangfu aimed at making public the details of the attack on the family home by local officials.
The raid on the family came when local officials—who had hired hundreds of local people to keep watch on Chen Guangcheng and his family—discovered the blind activist was nowhere to be seen, following his nighttime, solo escape in April after more than 18 months of house arrest.
In an interview in August, Chen Guangfu said police and officials "illegally burst into my house on the night of April 26 and ruthlessly beat up me, my son Kegui, and Kegui’s wife, who was wounded by the attackers."
He said the attackers were shouting to each other to beat his son to death, so his son picked up a kitchen knife in self-defense, injuring Zhang Jian, the head of Shuanghou township, and two other attackers.
Chen Guangcheng has accused Beijing of failing to honor its pledge to investigate abuses that he and his family were subjected to in China.
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 officials responsible for the mistreatment as part of an agreement reached during Sino-U.S. negotiations guaranteeing his safety on leaving the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
On Tuesday, Chen Guangcheng called on the U.S. government to publish the agreements between Washington and Beijing pertaining to his flight from house arrest to America and urged the U.S. to demand China’s leaders honor their pledges to him.
“When the Chinese Communist Central Party Committee can act like this in breaking its promises to me, to the United States, and to the whole world, and when it can willfully break agreements in a case that has attracted the world's attention, how can we expect it to improve the human rights situation in other areas and to take up its international responsibilities and obligations?” the lawyer asked.
“Related committees [should] formally obtain from the relevant departments of the administrative authorities—and publish—the written and oral diplomatic agreements between China and the United States with regard to this incident of mine,” he said.
“I hereby urge the U.S. government to solemnly demand that the Chinese Communist leaders do as they promised.”
Reported by Joshua Lipes.