BEIJING, May 11, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The nephew of embattled Chinese forced-abortion opponent Chen Guangcheng has been charged with “voluntary manslaughter” after he defended himself when government officials broke into his home, a charge that could carry the death sentence, the Guardian reported on Friday.

The U.K. newspaper cited lawyers who said Chen’s nephew Chen Kegui was charged for brandishing a meat cleaver at intruders who broke into his house in Linyi, Shandong province, as they searched for Chen. Lawyers defending the nephew said they have come under pressure from the government to drop the case, even though the younger Chen said he was only acting in self-defense and did not kill anyone, but only inflicted non-fatal wounds.

“Obviously it was justifiable self-defence. What else can you call it when 10 armed, unknown men crawl over the wall, break into his house and beat him? Instead of punishing the culprits, the authorities are reversing the meaning of ‘good’ and ‘evil’,” said lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who told the newspaper he lost some of his hearing from a perforated eardrum after the head of state security beat him for trying to visit Chen in the hospital last week.

The Guardian noted that several other lawyers connected to the events are either under house, under close surveillance, or forbidden from talking to the media.

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Chen Guangcheng remains under police lockdown at a Beijing hospital, recuperating and awaiting an opportunity to flee government persecution by accepting a fellowship at a U.S. university. Chen said that he has not even been allowed to leave the hospital to take some fresh air, and that friends, lawyers, and U.S. officials have been blocked from seeing him. He is at the hospital with his wife and two small children.

Chen has regularly expressed extreme concern for his extended family in interviews with media, and told Voice of America on Monday that officials had already beaten his nephew “ruthlessly.”

Chen left his sanctuary at the U.S. embassy last week after the Chinese government threatened to disallow reunion with his wife, who they said would be sent back to the village of their extra-judicial home imprisonment if he did not leave the American embassy.

The Chinese government has said that Chen is allowed to apply to a fellowship overseas “like any other citizen,” but has so far not moved to process Chen’s passport request.