Chinese Dissident Chen Guangcheng’s Nephew Faces Assault Charges







The Public Security Bureau of Linyi City, in Shandong province, has called for the indictment of Chen Kegui, nephew of blind legal advocate Chen Guangcheng, on charges of “intentional infliction of injury.” The indictment comes more than five months after Chen was arrested. 

Chen was taken away in the early morning hours of April 27 shortly after it was discovered that his uncle had a week earlier snuck past dozens of guards, spotlights, and spy cameras around his farm home where he was being held under house arrest. Chen Guangcheng made it to Beijing and eventually to safety in the U.S. Embassy, causing a rift between Beijing and Washington. Chen Guangcheng, who spent four years in prison for opposing forced abortions and sterilizations, had been under illegal house arrest for 19 months prior to his harrowing escape. 

Jerome Cohen, an expert on Chinese law at the New York University School of Law, says that the procuracy, or prosecutor’s office, will now study the case and decide whether to accept the recommendation of the police. Although the procuracy has the option of rejecting the police recommendation or sending the case back to the police for further investigation, in the vast majority of cases, it accepts the recommendation by the police, said Cohen. Cohen, who has known Chen Guangcheng for several years, was instrumental in negotiating Chen’s release and helping him and his family come to the United States. 

In the early morning hours of April 27, some 30 nonuniform police, local officials, and what the family describes as local “thugs,” climbed over the walls of the nephew’s house in Shandong province, thinking that Chen Guangcheng might be hiding there. Chen Guangfu, the father of the younger Chen, said he heard a commotion and that when he came out into his courtyard, several attackers were beating his son, with one official screaming, “Beat him to death! Beat him to death.” Frightened, Chen Kegui grabbed a kitchen knife to defend his family, allegedly injuring three of the attackers. The family says the attackers did not identify themselves and that the injuries were not serious. 

“My son didn’t know they were police,” said the father. “They didn’t wear uniforms, and they had no flashlights.” 

He says he and his wife were also beaten by police and then detained for several days, where they were repeatedly interrogated about the escape of Chen Guangcheng. They say they never saw their son again after that attack, although the family later received a formal notification of arrest from the police. The original charge was “intentional murder,” but this has now been downgraded to “intentional infliction of injury.” Chen Kegui has been held incommunicado for more than five months, with no contact allowed with family members or the lawyers assigned by the family, which is a violation of Chinese law. 

Cohen said that given the sensitivity of the case, that the county party political-legal committee had “undoubtedly already decided what the outcome will be,” after obtaining the approval of its city, provincial, and, probably, central party superiors. “This makes Chen's prosecution and conviction highly likely,” said Cohen, who said that it was likely the Communist Party wanted the sentence to come before the opening of the 18th Party Congress, which takes place every five years and is to open Nov. 8. ‘My son didn’t know they were police,’ said the father. ‘They didn’t wear uniforms, and they had no flashlights.’ 

“He should be acquitted, as it’s a case of self-defense,” said Cohen. “There was no search warrant or arrest warrant and no urgent need to break into the house, no emergency.” The China legal expert called the arrest “lawless.” 

The lawyers Chen’s family has appointed have been unlawfully refused entry into the case, said Chen Guangcheng, who said the lawyers will continue to try to represent his nephew before the procuracy and, if necessary, the court. “The county government has appointed, against the will of the family and undoubtedly the suspect, government-related legal aid lawyers to ‘assist’ Chen in his defense,” said Cohen. “But this is the same group [of lawyers] that was forced upon Chen Guangcheng in 2006, and they proved to be of no help whatever.” When Chen Guangcheng was tried in court in 2006, his lawyers were beaten, detained, and disbarred. 

Cohen said that it appeared that Chen had been mistreated on the night he was detained in April, and he said it’s also believed that he has been tortured by local police, enraged by the embarrassing escape of the blind, barefoot lawyer. Chen Guangcheng expressed anger that the indictment had come more than five months after he’d left China, when central government officials had promised to carry out a complete investigation into the abuse of himself and his family at the hands of local officials. He says there has been no word at all about the promised investigation. Chen, who is now living in New York with his wife and two children, called the charges ridiculous, saying that his nephew’s arrest was an “obvious retaliation” for his own escape.

© 2013 Paul J. Mooney