LINYI, Shangdong, China, December 11, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The brother of prominent human rights activist Chen Guangcheng has spoken out after his son was sentenced to more than three years in prison for defending himself against government agents who invaded his house in the middle of the night searching for his uncle. The U.S. State Department has called the process that led to his conviction “deeply flawed.”
Chen Kegui was arrested in May, just after his famous uncle escaped his own 18-month house arrest and sought shelter at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. The mayor of the Chens’ village, Zhang Jian, who was responsible for Chen Guangcheng’s imprisonment, was reportedly enraged by the escape and sent a nighttime search party to raid the home of Chen’s brother, Chen Guangfu. When Zhang’s men arrived, they began savagely beating the Chen family and ransacking the home.
Chen Guangfu says his son, Chen Kegui, thought the family was being robbed and grabbed a kitchen knife, which he used to defend himself against his attackers. His resistance caused minor injuries to some of his assailants. He ran away, but later turned himself in and was taken into custody, where he has remained since. At first, he was charged with “intentional homicide,” but the charges were later reduced to “intentional injury.”
Chen Kegui was convicted and sentenced on Nov. 30 by the Yinan County People’s Court in Shandong province. The Court found him guilty in a hastily-arranged afternoon trial from which his family was barred. The trial was held without notifying Chen Kegui’s attorneys, who said they found out about it only after they started receiving calls about it from the media, according to Ding Xikui, one of Chen’s lawyers. Chen Kegui was instead represented by a court-appointed lawyer.
Chen Guangfu issued a three-page statement condemning the government’s handling of the case and disputing its verdict. He said that many of the witnesses’ statements had been taken out of context or falsified. He also said Chen Kegui’s statements and the police department’s investigation, assessments and physical evidence were fabricated by the government.
In his statement, Chen Guangfu describes in detail what happened the night of the raid at his home:
After they had kidnapped me, about 20 minutes later, Zhang Jian led a bunch of unidentified people and barged into my home without any kind of legal procedure being followed and went around at will, opening doors and going through closets, searching my whole house and seizing cash, cellphones, address book and other items. They also started to savagely beat Chen Kegui’s mother and smashed the TV, sewing machine, furniture and the locks on many drawers. One thug who entered Kegui’s room had a wooden club and he got into an all-out brawl with him, fighting from the room to the outside, from inside the house out to the yard, hitting him repeatedly in the face, neck, arms and legs and inflicting multiple injuries. Kegui shouted to his mother for help and she tried to protect him by putting her arms around him, but Kegui said, “Mom, I’m about to be beaten to death and you’re still holding on to me?” Then these totally inhuman thugs grabbed Kegui’s mother’s hair and started to savagely beat her. At this dangerous juncture in which, if he didn’t defend himself, he would be beaten to death, Kegui grabbed a cleaver. But he didn’t immediately use it. Just then, Zhang Jian ordered the many thugs he brought with him to “Grab hold of him!” and the thugs swarmed him. Kegui was left with no alternative but to brandish the knife in self-defense. But at the trial, they are euphemistically saying that the beating, smashing and seizing was “looking for a cellphone.”
Chen Guangcheng, who now lives in New York, told the Associated Press that he was furious about the court’s decision.
“This is a case that tramples on the rule of law,” he said. “It is a declaration of war against fairness and justice in the world. I absolutely cannot accept this and am very, very angry.”
“There is no doubt that this is a kind of retaliation against me.”
Chen Guangcheng has long been targeted for retribution by the Communist Party for exposing brutal forced abortions and sterilizations China used to enforce its one-child policy.
The questionable circumstances surrounding Chen Kegui’s arrest and conviction have led to strong criticism from international observers.
Bob Fu, founder and president of China Aid, a human rights watchdog group, said, “The trial of Chen Kegui was nothing but an act of revenge against Chen Guangcheng through political manipulation. It is lacking in any element of due process. Instead of punishing Chen Kegui for acting in self defense out of fear for his life, those abusive criminal officials should be brought to justice.”
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the conviction was a violation of Chen Kegui’s human rights.
“We are deeply disturbed about reports that Chen Kegui, the nephew of human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng, was tried and convicted in a legal proceeding in China that lacked basic due process guarantees,” Nuland said.
“He was convicted in a summary trial in which he was not fully represented by legal counsel of his choosing. He didn’t have an opportunity to present his own defense. So this was a deeply flawed legal process.”
Reps. Chris Smith and Sherrod Brown, cochairmen of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, released a joint statement saying, “[W]e are deeply dismayed to learn that authorities have sentenced Chen Kegui, nephew of renowned legal advocate Chen Guangcheng, to more than three years in prison, in a trial marred from beginning to end by glaring procedural violations. Authorities’ treatment of this case raises serious questions about the rule of law in China.”
“We remind the Chinese government that it has not yet fulfilled its promise to investigate the illegal actions taken against Chen Guangcheng, and we reiterate our calls for a thorough investigation and prompt punishment of injustices committed against Chen and his family at the hands of officials,” said the Congressmen.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also condemned the verdict. She called for Chen Kegui’s release. “The decision by Chinese authorities to sentence Chen Guangcheng’s nephew, Chen Kegui, to prison for simply defending himself and his family is an affront to the rule of law and due process,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Chen Kegui should be released from prison, immediately and unconditionally.”