(New York) – Chinese government assurances to the US government about Chen Guangcheng may be insufficient to protect him and his family from a resumption of abuses and persecution they have suffered for extended periods at the hands of the authorities, Human Rights Watch said today. Ensuring that protection will require ongoing, substantive mechanisms to safeguard Chen, his family, and his supporters from such reprisals along with long-term monitoring by the US and other governments, Human Rights Watch said.
According to American diplomats, the Chinese government has pledged to relocate Chen Guangcheng and his family to “a safe environment” in China and allow him to study law. State media separately reported that the local authorities in Linyi, Shandong Province, who had unlawfully confined Chen and his relatives, would be investigated. State Department officials noted on May 2, 2012, “Chinese officials had indicated to us that his family would be returned to Shandong, and they would lose their opportunity to negotiate for reunification.” According to the Associated Press and Chinese activists, Chen has since reported receiving threats that his family would be sent back to Shandong province, where abusive officials wait.
“There are serious concerns over whether the Chinese government will honor commitments it made to the US government to not persecute Chen and his family members,” said Sophie Richardson,China director at Human Rights Watch. “Not only does the Chinese government have an appalling track record on human rights, but Chen himself has also already reported receiving threats to his family’s safety by government officials and fearing for his and their security.”
Chen is currently undergoing treatment at Beijing’s Chaoyang Hospital for a foot injury incurred during his escape from 19 months of unlawful detention in his home village of Dongshigu in Shandong province on April 22. US Ambassador Gary Locke and other senior American officials accompanied Chen to the hospital following his emergence after six days of hiding at the US Embassy in Beijing.
Chen, a blind legal activist, is reported to have escaped from his home village of Dongshigu in Shandong province on April 22, 2012, after 19 months of unlawful detention. After Chen escaped Dongshigu, he made his way to Beijing with the help of other activists, where he posted a video on the Chinese-language website Boxun. In the video, Chen appeals to Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to “personally intervene” by opening an investigation on Chen and his family’s confinement and “those who ordered county-level police and officials to break into my house, beat and hurt me, refused me medical attention – without any legal foundation or officers wearing uniforms.”
There has been no information in recent days regarding the status or well-being of He Peirong, a Nanjing-based activist who was detained after helping Chen reach Beijing from Shandong. Chen Kegui, Chen Guangcheng’s nephew, who was allegedly involved with several government officials in a violent altercation in his home last week, is currently free in Dongshigu, but fears he may be the target of the same rough justice suffered by his uncle. Chen Kegui issued a statement last week describing the altercation as self-defense after people in civilian clothes who didn’t identify themselves broke into his home.
“The fact that Chen has chosen to stay in China does not mean that there is safety for him, his family, or other activists who express support for his dedication to rule of law and social justice,” said Richardson. “American officials admit it’s possible that there will be backsliding on this deal, and they have to be prepared to respond – immediately, publicly, and at the highest levels.”