【 Reuters 】   Post Date: 5/11/2012
Reprisals on Activist’s Family Are Out of Control, Says Chen
Author: Chris Buckley and Sui-Lee Wee

The blind activist is accusing local officials of holding some of his relatives and harassing several others out of spite toward him.  He went on to say that it was difficult to communicate with many family members back home in Shandong province since police had confiscated their phones.

(Reuters) - Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng and a family lawyer have accused local officials of detaining two of his relatives and hounding and harassing others in revenge for his recent escape from house arrest and for sparking an international furor.

Chen, whose escape last month caused embarrassment for China and led to a diplomatic crisis in U.S.-Sino relations, said a sister-in-law and nephew had both been detained, though the lawyer added that Chen's sister-in-law had since been released.

Chen has spoken previously of his fears for reprisals against his family, but his remarks to Reuters on Thursday, corroborated by the lawyer, are the first time he has relayed details of what he says is a crazed campaign of reprisals.

"Now they're going crazy with reprisals," Chen said in a telephone interview from a Beijing hospital where he is being treated for injuries suffered during his escape.

"In fact, they've already started taking revenge."

Chen's story has overshadowed Sino-U.S. diplomacy since he foiled guards and security cameras around his home in Shandong province, in rural east China, and was taken by supporters to Beijing where he sheltered in the U.S. embassy for six days.

Chen is also being treated in hospital for an intestinal ailment left untreated while under house arrest for 19 months. He now plans to study in the United States, where he has been offered fellowships by New York University and the University of Washington, under a deal between Beijing and Washington.

Chen said relatives back in Shandong appeared to be bearing the brunt of officials' anger over his audacious escape and the international uproar it sparked.

The reprisals were, he said, weighing heavily on his mind though for now he was unlikely to delay his plans to go to the United States. "It shouldn't. We'll see," he said.


Chen, who recently spoke by phone to his elderly mother but otherwise had patchy communications with his relatives, said his biggest worry was the fate of his nephew Chen Kegui.

He said police had detained Chen Kegui after the nephew was accused of brandishing a kitchen cleaver at guards who had stormed into the home of the blind dissident's brothers after his bold escape prompted a panicked search by officials.

"It seems the Yinan public security has already said he's in their hands," said Chen, adding that a sister-in-law had also been detained.

It was not completely clear if he was referring to Chen Kegui's mother, who the lawyer said had been detained and released, or another sister-in-law. The dissident has four sisters-in-law.

"My family is very worried," Chen said.

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Key Words: Chen Guangcheng, Human Rights China, Political Dissidents China
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