China puts nephew of blind activist on trial
Beijing: Chinese authorities put the nephew of legal activist Chen Guangcheng on trial on Friday in a case seen as retaliation by local officials angered by Chen's daring escape from house arrest earlier this year.
Chen Guangcheng slipped out of his tightly guarded village in northeastern China in April, fleeing to the US Embassy and setting off a diplomatic tussle between Beijing and Washington. The activist, who is blind, now lives in New York.
Chen's nephew Chen Kegui, 32, faces charges that he assaulted officials who stormed into his house looking for the activist and will stand trial at the Yinan County People's Court today, said his father, Chen Guangfu. The court confirmed that Chen Kegui's trial was under way.
The charge of "intentional injury" centers on a clash between Chen Kegui and local officials who burst into his home looking for Chen Guangcheng after his escape. Chen Kegui allegedly hacked at the officials with knives after he and his parents had been beaten.
Chen Guangcheng, in an interview from his home in New York where he has been studying English and law, said he was worried about his nephew's fate in the hands of China's opaque judicial system.
"This has shown clearly to the whole world that people should not pin even the littlest bit of hope on this system," Chen told The Associated Press. Chen said authorities in his hometown were acting "unreasonably, illegally and in violation of humanity."
Chen's flight from abusive house arrest in Shandong and into the protection of US diplomats which led to an agreement with Beijing to let him study in the US accompanied by his wife and children exposed the impunity of local officials and embarrassed the central government.
Supporters of Chen, who exposed forced abortions and other wrongdoing by local officials, fear that his relatives are at risk of retribution from local officials angry at Chen's escape.
Critics and the activist's supporters say that the case against Chen Kegui has been riddled with irregularities.
In the months since Chen Kegui disappeared into police custody, Yinan authorities have not officially notified his family about the prosecution nor issued an indictment or other official documentation to them. Officials have not let family members see Chen Kegui or hire their own lawyers to defend him, saying instead that Chen had accepted legal aid and court-appointed lawyers.
Chen Guangfu said he learned about the opening of his son's trial when the officially appointed lawyer called him this morning. "From the very beginning, they have not told us anything about the case," he said.