A United Nations panel has ruled that the nephew of Chinese blind dissident Chen Guangcheng is being arbitrarily detained by authorities in China, calling for his immediate release and compensation for his suffering during more than two years in custody.
Chen Kegui was detained on April 29, 2012 and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail for clashing with officials who invaded his home and attacked his family in the wake of his uncle’s daring escape from house arrest earlier that month.
On Wednesday, Washington-based prisoner advocacy group Freedom Now, which assisted Chen Guangcheng in bringing the case to the attention of the U.N., conveyed that the U.N.’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had issued a ruling against China’s continued detention of Chen Kegui last week.
“China likes to claim that it is a country that adheres to the rule of law, but now an independent and impartial body at the United Nations has declared that Chen Kegui is being detained in violation of international law,” Freedom Now founder Jared Genser told RFA.
“I call on China to follow the U.N.'s call for Chen Kegui's release and to adhere to their commitment to the U.S. that it would stop persecuting Chen Guangcheng and his family.”
Family members have said Chen Kegui is suffering from a medical condition behind bars.
Earlier this month, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said that Chen Kegui’s continued imprisonment was “in contravention of … the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” according to a copy of the ruling provided to RFA by Freedom Now.
“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.
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 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 the U.S. to study.
‘Blow to credibility’
Chen Guangcheng on Wednesday called the U.N.’s ruling “a decision the Chinese government doesn’t want to see,” but he acknowledged that whether Beijing would comply “depends on pressure from democratic countries throughout the world.”
“At the very least, the ruling has settled a basic fact, which is consistent with what everyone believes, but what China has been denying,” he said.
Chen Guangcheng said that Beijing has repeatedly stressed to the Chinese people the significance of the United Nations as an organ of international law, and should adhere to its ruling on his nephew.
“When news breaks of the U.N. decision, and if China refuses to comply, it will be a blow to its own credibility,” he said.
Lawmakers weigh in
Chen Guangcheng joined U.S. lawmakers Wednesday in welcoming the ruling on Capitol Hill.
House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Republican Congressman Chris Smith urged China to release Chen Kegui.
“The jailing of Chen Kegui is indeed arbitrary, as found by the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. But it is also brutal and scary and unconscionable,” Smith told reporters.
“It is unlikely that a country like China, which aspires to be a great power, can ever become one if [it] treats its citizens thusly. Along with the U.N., we urge China to immediately and unconditionally release Chen Kegui.”
Smith called on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to seek the release of Chen Kegui during his upcoming trip to Beijing next month.