US concern over China sentence
The United States is deeply disturbed that the nephew of blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng was sentenced to more than three years in jail and views his trial as "deeply flawed," the US State Department said today.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the trial and sentencing of Chen Kegui lacked basic due process and was a violation of China's own commitments to respect human rights.
Chen Kegui was charged after using knives to fend off local officials who burst into his home on April 27th, the day after they discovered his blind uncle had escaped from 19 months of harsh house arrest in eastern Shandong province and fled to the US embassy in Beijing.
"This was a deeply flawed legal process that convicted him and sentenced him to three years in prison," Ms Nuland said.
Chen Kegui had been held incommunicado by police for more than six months and was denied access to his choice of lawyers prior to his sentencing today by a court in eastern China. .
Chen Guangcheng's escape from house arrest in April and subsequent refuge in the US Embassy was deeply embarrassing for China, and led to a serious diplomatic tussle between the two nations.
Ms Nuland said Chen Kegui's parents had been repeatedly denied permission to visit their son, and were given little advance notice of the trial. She said several Chinese attorneys who had offered to represent him pro bono had been warned that their licences could be suspended.
"We regret China's failure to honor its international commitments and we call on them to review this case," Ms Nuland said, adding that the case appeared to contradict Chinese assurances given as part of the deal that saw Chen Guangcheng travel to the United States that his family would not be targeted for reprisals.
In another move likely to irritate US-China ties, Ms Nuland confirmed that the State Department's top human rights official met yesterday with family members of several Tibetans who had recently burned themselves to death to protest Chinese rule of their homeland.
Michael Posner expressed US condolences for the immolations - which have now claimed about 60 lives since March 2011 - and expressed US concern over "the spiraling violence and harsh crackdown in Tibetan areas," Ms Nuland said.
"We remain very concerned about rising tensions that result from counter productive policies including those that limit freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, [and freedom of] association in Tibet," Ms Nuland said.
China has branded the self-immolators "terrorists" and criminals, and has blamed the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dalai Lama, for inciting them.
Beijing brands the Dalai Lama a dangerous separatist, but he denies supporting violence and says he merely seeks greater autonomy for his homeland, which he claims is a victim of Chinese "cultural genocide".
Activists say China tramples on religious freedom and culture in Tibet, which has been ruled with an iron rod since the 1950 takeover. China rejects such criticism, saying its rule ended serfdom and brought development to a backward area.