Chinese authorities harassing activist’s family, claims Amnesty
Chen Guangcheng, who last year made a daring escape from house arrest
The family of prominent “barefoot lawyer” (self-taught legal activist) and human rights campaigner Chen Guangcheng, who last year made a daring escape from house arrest, are the victims of a campaign of constant harassment, threat and detention, Amnesty International said yesterday.
Mr Chen, who is blind, escaped from his tightly guarded home last April and holed up in the US embassy in Beijing, triggering a diplomatic crisis with Washington. He was later allowed leave to study in the US, where he has been vocal in support for rights issues and in calling attention to his family and their plight.
In his view, his family are being held “hostage” as punishment, and to control his political activities overseas.
“It won’t work. It’s never worked and it won’t work now,” Mr Chen told Amnesty.
His brother, Chen Guangfu, said Yinan county prosecutors questioned his wife, Ren Zongju, on Wednesday for an hour and a half and then notified her they planned to indict her for harbouring a suspect.
The “suspect” in question was Ms Ren’s son, Chen Kegui. The nephew of Mr Chen fled the scene after he assaulted security officials, who had been searching for his uncle after he escaped illegal house arrest, and Chen Kegui claims they beat him. He was convicted in November of attacking officials and sentenced to three years and three months. The family says he acted in self-defence. Ms Ren was questioned with another brother of Mr Chen, Chen Guangjun.
“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 since leaving China,” said Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland.
“Ren Zongju must be either charged with an internationally recognised criminal offence or released immediately.”
Before her latest detention, Ms Ren was previously held and then released on bail.
Last week, dead chickens and ducks were thrown at the family house, at a time when bird flu is causing fear around the country. A couple of days later, posters went up around the village with threats accusing the family being traitors.
Their house was pelted with stones, breaking glass and damaging roof tiles. The morning after the assault with stones, Chen Guangfu found more dead fowl outside his door, as well as burnt paper – in China, burnt paper money is placed on graves.