The nephew of blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng was released on Wednesday after serving more than three years in a Chinese prison and the U.S.-based Chen vowed to press China to hold officials accountable for years of persecution of his family.
Chen Kegui was detained on April 29, 2012 and later sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail for fighting off officials who had invaded his home and beat his parents in the wake of his uncle’s daring escape from house arrest earlier that month. He sustained a severe beating but his assertion that he injured his attackers in self defense were not considered in a closed trial.
Chen Kegui told RFA's Cantonese Service that first on his agenda since his release was getting a physical examination and resting.
"My health is not good...I am trying to get well," he told RFA in a telephone interview.
"I haven’t had a chance to get a physical checkup. I will go to the hospital to get a thorough physical exam," Chen Kegui added, without giving details on his ailments.
Chen Kegui said he that despite his release from prison, he expects to be place under heavy surveillance in his home in Dongshigu village in China's eastern Shandong province.
While the younger Chen said he was undecided about whether he would try to seek justice for what a United Nations panel declared was an arbitrary and unjust incarceration, his uncle Chen Guangcheng said he will make sure his family's tormenters are held accountable.
"It’s so very obviously a persecution, with absolutely no reason," Chen Guangcheng said of his nephew's ordeal.
"I am not going to relax and stop pursuing justice for my family. Those responsible for our persecution must be held accountable," he told RFA.
Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught lawyer who exposed forced abortions under China's one-child policy and defended the rights of ordinary people, has been living and studying in the United States since arriving in New York in May 2012, after a diplomatic standoff between Washington and Beijing.
After 18 months of house arrest in 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 the U.S. to study.
In June 2014, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said that Chen Kegui’s continued imprisonment was “in contravention of … the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”
“The Working Group requests the [Chinese] Government to take the necessary steps to remedy the situation, which include the immediate release of Chen Kegui and to grant him compensation for the harm he has suffered during the period of his arbitrary detention,” the ruling said.
During the high-level diplomacy surrounding Chen Guangcheng's flight to asylum in the United States, China had pledged to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the abuse of his family members, who were routinely harassed and beaten by thugs they believed were sent by local officials.
"Yet no publicly available information suggests that any of the officials involved in the vendetta have been fired, much less held legally responsible for the arbitrary detention, beatings, and torture of the Chen family," Human Rights Watch said in a statement issued on the eve of Chen Kegui's release.
The the New York-based rights watchdog said the Chens were unlikely to find a remedy in China's current climate of repression, in which human rights lawyers and their staff have been rounded up and activists on a range of social issues have been silenced.
"All of these factors suggest that authorities won’t respect Chen Kegui’s rights post-release, that his freedom won’t really be free. The Chens’ story mirrors those of countless others: those who defend human rights are imprisoned on trumped-up charges, while their tormentors are comfortable in the belief that they will never be held accountable," said Human Rights Watch.
Reported by Wong Lok-to for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated by Vivian Kwan. Written in English by Paul Eckert.