Chen Trial Date Still Unclear

Chinese authorities keep details of the murder trial of dissident Chen Guangcheng's nephew shrouded in secrecy.

chen-guangfu-he-peirong-305 Chen Kegui's father Chen Guangfu (l) with activist He Peirong (r) in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of He Peirong

Doubts remained on Wednesday over the trial date of blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng's nephew Chen Kegui, who faces "intentional homicide" charges, his relatives said.

A U.S.-based activist had previously said that Chen Kegui, who defended his family from an allegedly brutal attack after his uncle's daring escape from house arrest, would stand trial at a court in Yinan county in the eastern province of Shandong on Friday.

But Chen Kegui's father Chen Guangfu said Wednesday he still didn't know the date of his son's trial.

"The authorities haven't dispatched a single person to keep in touch with us," Chen Guangfu said. "Some people have been asking me if they informed [Chen Kegui's wife] Liu Fang, but that's not likely at all, because they wouldn't be able to reach her."

"[Chen] Guangcheng has also asked me where this information came from, but I don't know," he said.

Chen Kegui defended himself with a kitchen knife when “local government officials and their hired thugs” broke into his home, dissident Chen Guangcheng, who is now living in New York, has said. Several people were injured in the incident, including an official.

Chen Guangcheng said his nephew, who has been detained since May, was the victim of vengeful officials incensed at the blind activist's escape from house arrest, which had cast a global spotlight on human rights abuses in China.

U.S.-based rights activist Wang Xuezhen, who is a friend of the family, said in an interview on Sunday that Chen Kegui's family hadn't received any documentation, but that they had been told verbally that the trial would begin on Aug. 10.

Wang said he believed the local authorities had deliberately scheduled Chen's trial a day after the murder trial of Gu Kailai, wife of ousted Chongqing Communist Party boss Bo Xilai, in the eastern province of Anhui to avoid international attention.


Chen Kegui in an undated photo courtesy of lawyer Liu Weiguo.
Chen Kegui in an undated photo courtesy of lawyer Liu Weiguo.
Chen Kegui in an undated photo courtesy of lawyer Liu Weiguo.
Chen Kegui's case has been shrouded in secrecy since Chen Guangcheng's arrival in the U.S., with many lawyers reporting official harassment after they tried to advise or represent him.

A lawyer appointed to defend Chen Kegui by the Yinan county authorities surnamed Song hung up the phone as soon as he was contacted by RFA's Cantonese service.

An employee who answered the phone at the Yinan People's Court said, "I don't know," when asked the date of the trial.

Shandong lawyer Liu Weiguo said Chen Kegui had now been held for longer than the three-month maximum period to allow criminal investigations to proceed.

"The court has a duty to inform the family, and to announce it publicly," Liu said. "Most police investigations last for two months, with the option to extend for another month."

"Normally, the case would be passed over to the state prosecutor, but we haven't heard that this has happened either," he said.

Pressure on lawyers

Guangdong-based lawyer Chen Wuquan, who has had his legal business license retracted by the authorities since offering legal assistance to Chen Kegui, said the government had also put pressure on his law firm to terminate his contract.

"I have my sources of information," Chen Wuquan said. "When the time comes for their business permits to be renewed, the justice department will call them up and tell them not to sign a contract with me."

Repeated calls to the Guangzhou justice department went unanswered during office hours on Wednesday.

Family saga

Chen Kegui has been refused permission to meet with lawyers hired by his family.

Chen Guangcheng's daring escape in April from his closely guarded home and subsequent flight to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, where he sought refuge for nearly a week, came just ahead of annual strategic dialogues between U.S. and Chinese officials, prompting a diplomatic crisis and frantic behind-the-scenes negotiations.

The diplomatic crisis was defused after Chen was allowed to fly to New York, where he is now a special student in law at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute of New York University.

He accused Beijing last week of failing to honor its pledge to investigate abuses that he and his family were subjected to in China, as he met with top U.S. lawmakers in Washington.

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.

Reported by Grace Kei Lai-see for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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