A CHINESE court sentenced the nephew of legal activist Chen Guangcheng to more than three years in jail yesterday after a hurried half-day trial that his parents were barred from attending.
The Yinan County People’s Court convicted Chen Kegui, 32, of assaulting officials who stormed into his house looking for Chen Guangcheng and sentenced him to three years and three months’ imprisonment, said his father, Chen Guangfu.
The court would not let him and his wife attend the trial, Chen Guangfu said, and dozens of police officers guarded them as they waited outside the courthouse.
The punishment is seen by many as retaliation by local officials angered over blind activist Chen Guangcheng’s escape from house arrest in April. The activist fled to the American embassy and set off a diplomatic tussle between Beijing and Washington. He now lives in New York.
Chen Guangcheng said he was infuriated by the punishment of his nephew, who has argued that he acted in self-defence after his house was raided by armed men in the middle of the night.
“This is a case that tramples on the rule of law. It is a declaration of war against fairness and justice in the world. I absolutely cannot accept this and am very, very angry,” said Chen Guangcheng in an interview from his home in New York, where he has been studying English and law.
“There is no doubt that this is a kind of retaliation against me.”
The charge of “intentional injury” is focussed 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.
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 did not officially notify his family about the prosecution nor did they issue an indictment or other official documentation to them. Officials did not let family members see Chen Kegui or hire lawyers to defend him, saying that Chen had accepted legal aid and court-appointed lawyers.
His father, Chen Guangfu, said he learned about the trial only hours before it opened, when the officially appointed lawyer called him yesterday morning. “From the very beginning, they have not told us anything about the case,” he said.
Chen Guangfu said he was saddened by the verdict, coming just weeks after a pivotal Communist Party meeting in Beijing in which a new group of leaders was unveiled. “I feel very disappointed. I had believed that once the new generation of leaders came to power there would be improvements in the rule of law, but now it looks like the situation is still the same.”
Beijing activist Hu Jia said he believed the authorities sought to pressure Chen Guangcheng into silence while overseas by putting his nephew in jail.
“We can see that Chen Kegui himself is a hostage who is being used to contain and also to punish Chen Guangcheng,” Mr Hu said.
“If the Chinese government feels pressure from Chen Guangcheng’s advocacy overseas, what can they use to punish and to limit him? That is Chen Kegui, who will now be in jail.”