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BEIJING, China – The older brother of a blind Chinese activist who triggered a diplomatic row between Beijing and Washington has escaped his heavily guarded home and arrived in the capital Thursday, May 24, a rights lawyer said.
Chen Guangfu fled Dongshigu village in the eastern Shandong province under cover of darkness and travelled to Beijing, much like his brother Chen Guangcheng did a month earlier, sparking a crisis between the US and China.
Chen Guangfu met a rights lawyer in the capital to discuss the case of his adult son, who is in police custody charged with attempted murder over an attack on a local official who broke into the family home.
Authorities raided the home after discovering that Chen Guangcheng had escaped following nearly two years under illegal house arrest. Chen Guangcheng later pitched up at the US embassy and last week left for the United States.
Lawyer Ding Xikui said of Chen Guangfu: “He escaped from Dongshigu village in the middle of the night.” Like his more famous brother, Chen Guangfu had also been effectively held under house arrest in the village, he said.
“There were people monitoring him and controlling his movements. They were not allowing him to leave the village, he had been confined to the village,” Ding told AFP by telephone.
It was not clear when Chen Guangfu escaped and Ding refused to reveal how he got away, but his daring flight appeared very similar to his brother’s.
Since Chen Guangcheng’s flight to the US embassy in late April, his extended family has been effectively under house arrest in Dongshigu village. The self-taught lawyer has expressed fears for his family’s safety.
Chen Guangcheng, who was released from a four-year jail term in 2010 after he exposed forced abortions and sterilisations under China’s “one-child” policy, said he suffered repeated beatings while under house arrest.
Ding refused to reveal where Chen Guangfu was in Beijing.
“I’m concerned about his safety,” Ding said, adding that Chen Guangfu feared that police from Shandong could come looking for him and arrest him even though he has not committed any crime.
Police in Shandong said on May 10 that Chen Guangfu’s son, Chen Kegui, had been charged with murder, and he remains in custody there.
He has been given two government-appointed lawyers, but the lawyers chosen by his family — including Ding — say they have been barred from meeting him.
“By refusing us the right to visit him, they are violating the law,” Ding said. “There is no legal basis for this refusal.”
On Monday, Ding sent a letter to the police force handling Chen Kegui’s case saying they were violating laws on the rights of defendants to meet with their lawyers and spelling out worries over potential police mistreatment.
Ding said there was no evidence Chen Kegui has been beaten or ill-treated, but that police in China have been known to refuse visitation rights to defendants or prisoners to conceal beatings.
“We are still awaiting the Yinan police response to the letter,” Ding said, referring to the local force handling the case. – Agence France-Presse