Conviction Appears Aimed at Punishing Chen Guangcheng’s Activism
(New York) – The hasty and unfair trial of the nephew of blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng in China’s Shandong province appears intended to punish Chen for defying the Chinese government. On November 30, 2012, a criminal court in Linyi city convicted Chen Kegui of “intentional infliction of injury” and sentenced him to three years and three months in prison.
“Prosecuting Chen Guangcheng’s nephew was a test of China’s respect for the rule of law, and both the nephew, Chen Kegui, and the rule of law lost,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “This case bore the same disturbing hallmarks as Chen Guangcheng's persecution – incommunicado detention, denial of lawyers of his choice, and a politicized and closed trial.”
Chen Kegui's family learned that his case had been transferred to the prosecution on October 12. The one-day trial was not announced ahead of time and was closed to the public. Chen was not represented by a lawyer of his choosing.
Chen had been held by the police, and denied access to his family or lawyers of his choosing, since late April. He was charged with injuring police who had raided his family home in the village of Linyi late at night several days after his uncle made an escape from illegal confinement in a house located in the same village.
In May, during negotiations between the United States and Chinese governments over the fate of Chen Guangcheng, who sought refuge at the US Embassy in Beijing after his escape, Chinese state media reported that the local authorities in Linyi would be investigated for unlawfully confining Chen and his relatives. Chen later confirmed that an envoy from the central government had promised him such an investigation. More than six months later, no such investigations have begun.
“Chen Kegui's case not only violated Chinese and international legal standards, it also suggests that the new leadership in Beijing can't or won't follow through on commitments to investigate local officials implicated in wrongdoing and egregious human rights abuses,” said Richardson. “And that in turn is a worrying indication of what lies ahead.”