Chen Family in China Targeted Ahead of Escape Anniversary

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Chen Guangcheng (L) at a congressional hearing in Washington, April 9, 2013.
Chen Guangcheng (L) at a congressional hearing in Washington, April 9, 2013.

Relatives of blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who is currently a visiting legal scholar in New York, say the authorities have stepped up harassment of the family ahead of Friday's anniversary of his daring escape from house arrest.

"They have been harassing us ever since the night of [April] 18th," Chen Guangcheng's brother, Chen Guangfu, said from the family's hometown in the eastern province of Shandong.

He said government-sponsored thugs had hung dead chickens and ducks in his family's private courtyard on the night of April 18, and put up posters defaming and threatening him and his family around the village.

"At 1:00 a.m. on [April] 21, they threw some stones into our courtyard, smashing some glass and roof tiles," Chen said.

"On the 22nd, when my mother got up at 7:00 a.m. to go and buy some stuff, she found someone had distributed leaflets on the streets [about us]."

"They threw rocks into our house again in the early hours of [Wednesday] ... and a beer bottle in our cooking pot," Chen said.

The posters were printed, and described Chen Guangfu and Chen Guangcheng as "hoodlums and traitors to the Han people," he said.

"They said we had links with foreign devils and Taiwan independence forces, and were the sons of the United States and traitors to our own land."

He said he believed the posters were an attempt to mark the anniversary of Chen Guangcheng's daring escape at the end of April last year after his family was subjected to more than 18 months of house arrest and beatings.

Sending a warning

Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught lawyer who exposed forced abortions under the country's one-child policy and defended the rights of ordinary people, has been living and studying law in New York since arriving in the U.S. in May 2012, after a diplomatic standoff between Washington and Beijing.

After 18 months of house arrest in Shandong's Dongshigu village, Chen Guangcheng 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.

"Maybe they want to send us a warning, not to go speaking out about things," Chen Guangfu said. "My feeling is that this is an organized campaign, and they are probably secure in the knowledge that they have [government] backing."

He said that the harassment was likely linked to the fact that Chen Guangcheng had supplied to the U.S. Congress a list of more than 40 names of officials in his home county of Yinan he said were responsible for human rights abuses, and to his subsequent visit to Taiwan.

"This is affecting us economically, and the psychological pressure is huge as well," he said.

Also on Wednesday, Chen Guangfu's wife, Ren Zongju, was summoned by the authorities from nearby Linyi city and accused of "harboring" the couple's son, Chen Kegui, who was jailed last year after he tried to defend the family against an assault by security personnel.

"This is the first time I have been called in for questioning by police since last year," Ren said in an interview on Wednesday. "[Last year], they took me to a detention center and didn't take me home until four days later."

Punishing the family

According to Catherine Baber, Asia-Pacific Program Director at Amnesty International, the latest detention of Ren appeared to be a punishment aimed at the whole family.

"This new detention—a full year after Chen Guangcheng’s escape—seems aimed at punishing him and his family for his continued outspoken criticism of the Chinese government," Baber said in a statement on the group's website.

Another Chen brother recently said that his car had been damaged and his tires repeatedly slashed, Amnesty said.

"In China we’ve seen a pattern of the authorities singling out family members and associates of prominent government critics and human rights defenders for intimidation—this must be stopped immediately," Baber said.

The family's lawyer, Ding Xikui, said the harassment of the Chen family was illegal.

"I hope they will report the case to the authorities, and we will see how they deal with it," he said.

Earlier this month, Chen Guangcheng said his nephew, who is serving a 39-month jail term for injuring officials, has been subjected to “torture,” including sleep and food deprivation, while under detention.

Chen Kegui said local officials entered his home and attacked him and his family in anger, shortly after his uncle’s blind, solo escape under cover of darkness.

Reported by Wen Yuqing 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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