Family: Blind Chinese activist's nephew faces prosecution

Chen Guangcheng says local authorities are handling his nephew's case the same way they handled his.

Story highlights

  • Chinese police sends case involving Chen Guangcheng's nephew to prosecution
  • Police downgraded Chen Kegui's alleged crime to "intentional infliction of injury"
  • Chen's family says it's retribution for Chen's escape from house arrest

Chinese police have sent the criminal case involving the nephew of prominent blind human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng to the prosecution, signaling a possible trial soon, as well as continued official retribution against the activist's relatives, Chen and his family said.

Chen Kegui, the nephew, was arrested in the city of Linyi in early May and accused of attempted murder shortly after his uncle escaped more than 18 months of heavily guarded house arrest.

The family has maintained that the younger Chen injured a few officials with a kitchen knife in self-defense, when they broke into his house in the middle of the night and attacked his family after his activist-uncle ran away.

"The local authorities are now declaring war on justice and the conscience of the international community," Chen Guangcheng told CNN over the phone from the United States, where he is studying law at New York University. "They're trying to separate his case from mine, but that's impossible."

    Just Watched

    Chen Guangcheng's life in New York

Chen Guangcheng's life in New York 02:15
PLAY VIDEO

    Just Watched

    Chen Guangcheng: I'm doing fine

Chen Guangcheng: I'm doing fine 10:49
PLAY VIDEO

    Just Watched

    Chen's flight from China

Chen's flight from China 06:05
PLAY VIDEO

    Just Watched

    The importance of Chen Guangcheng

The importance of Chen Guangcheng 02:19
PLAY VIDEO

Chen Guangfu, the activist's older brother and the nephew's father, hasn't been allowed to see his incarcerated son since his arrest. He said he learned from a government-appointed lawyer that police downgraded Kegui's alleged crime from attempted murder to "intentional infliction of injury" when sending the case to the prosecution.

"There has never been any fairness in this case -- they ignored the facts and refused to let us appoint lawyers for Kegui in accordance with law," the father said. "The whole thing is their revenge against Guangcheng's escape, so I don't have any hope for a fair trial."

An official with Linyi's police department, who declined to give his name, told CNN that Chen Kegui's case is now "in the judicial process" and would not comment further. Repeated phone calls to the local prosecutor's office went unanswered Monday.

    Chen Guangcheng's arrival in the United States on May 19 -- along with his wife and children -- brought an end to a diplomatic firestorm between Beijing and Washington that erupted after he fled from house arrest in Linyi in late April and hid inside the U.S. embassy in Beijing for a week.

    In a video posted online after his escape, Chen addressed Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, detailing grotesque abuses -- including repeated beatings -- he said he and his family had suffered at the hands of local authorities during captivity.

    "A fair trial for Chen Kegui would be hugely embarrassing to the Linyi authorities because family-appointed lawyers would want to bring in the years of unlawful persecution of Chen Guangcheng as relevant context and background," said Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based senior Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch. "That's what the authorities want to avoid at all cost."

    Before and after leaving China, Chen Guangcheng has repeatedly said that officials from the central government have pledged a thorough investigation into his allegations against local authorities. He has also frequently expressed concern over the safety of his family members left behind.

    "I think this is the test," Bequelin said of Chen Kegui's case. "As long as he is being detained in this manner without regard to law, it would be very difficult to be optimistic about the government keeping its promise to Chen Guangcheng."

    In 2006 the self-taught legal activist was sentenced to four years and three months in prison for "damaging property and organizing a mob to disturb traffic." His supporters have maintained that the charges were trumped up by local officials to punish his advocacy for victims of what he called abusive practices of the country's strict family planning policy, including forced abortions and sterilizations.

    Now Chen Guangcheng says Linyi authorities are handling his nephew's case almost exactly the same way as they did six years ago before his own trial.

    "Kegui is becoming the second me based on the treatment he's received in the past few months," he said.

        China's blind crusader

      • anderson cooper sit down intv with Chen Guancheng 2 cam set up att the NY bar association.Chen will have a translator with him so please mic both the translator and chen, but we'll only see chen and anderson in

        In his first TV interview since his dramatic escape from house arrest, Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng described how he and his wife were beaten periodically.
      • grant china chen retribution_00000912

        China may have allowed Chen Guangcheng to flee to the U.S. but Stan Grant says a brutal crackdown on dissidents continues there.
      • Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng (C) and his wife Yuan Weijing (R) arrive at the New York University Village apartment complex in Manhattan in New York, May 19, 2012.  AFP PHOTO / MLADEN ANTONOV        (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/GettyImages)

        CNN's Steven Jiang flew with Chen Guangcheng from China and says the activist has "mixed feelings" about his journey.
      • Bo XIlai (left) and Chen Guangcheng have become a problem for Chinese authorities.

        Could the separate crises engulfing disgraced politician Bo Xilai and blind dissident Chen Guangcheng together influence dramatic change?
      • Chinese activist activist Chen Guangcheng (L) is seen in a wheelchair pushed by a nurse at the Chaoyang hospital in Beijing on May 2, 2012. A US official said there would be no repeat of the incident involving the activist Chen

        CNN spoke with Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng and his wife Yuan Weijing from his Beijing hospital room after he left the U.S. embassy.
      • exp Chen says US govt let him down_00002001

        The blind activist at the center of a storm involving China and the United States says he was encouraged to leave the American Embassy in Beijing.
      • Human rights activist Chen Guangcheng appears on YouTube after he slipped away from house arrest.

        Chen Guangcheng says he feels misled by U.S. offiicals. Journalist Frida Ghitis says if he was, it will be a "dark mark of shame" for the U.S.
      • In handout photograph from the US Embassy Beijing Press office taken May 2, 2012 Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng (C) holds the hand of US ambassador to China Gary Locke (2R) , in Beijing .

        Before Chen Guangcheng became known as a human rights crusader, his neighbors knew him as the man to go to when they had trouble with local authorities.
      • grant china chen village chase_00025118

        A CNN team attempted to visit Chen Guangcheng's hometown of Dongshigu. But mention of his name seemed to provoke awkward and evasive reactions.