Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Chinese Activist's Family and Lawyers Harassed ; Local Chinese Authorities Hold Activist's Cousin and the Cousin's Legal Counsel

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Chinese Activist's Family and Lawyers Harassed ; Local Chinese Authorities Hold Activist's Cousin and the Cousin's Legal Counsel

Article excerpt

Chen Guangcheng, the legal activist who dramatically escaped house arrest, may be in relative safety in Beijing, but his relatives and supporters in Shandong could be at risk.

Family members and lawyers representing Chen Guangcheng are facing increased harassment despite an international deal brokered to help the blind legal activist.

According to lawyers and activists, the police in Mr. Chen's hometown have put several of his family members under various forms of detention as part of an investigation into Mr. Chen's cousin, who is accused of assaulting police officers. One of the lawyers who was to have defended the cousin was reported to have been detained in a Beijing jail, and two others have been warned off the case.

Nicolas Bequelin, in the Hong Kong office of Human Rights Watch, said reports showed that local officials in Mr. Chen's hometown in Shandong Province continued to exercise arbitrary power. Although the cousin's actions -- both sides agree that he brandished a kitchen cleaver at police officers -- should be investigated, he said, the family was right to be concerned that local officials would not give him a fair hearing.

"The U.S. needs to keep raising these cases very strongly," Mr. Bequelin said. "This is about justice in China; it's larger than just Chen Guangcheng."

Last month, Mr. Chen escaped house arrest and fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He left the embassy last week under a deal brokered by the U.S. State Department that would allow him to study law in China. After he expressed concerns about his safety in China, Beijing agreed to allow him to study abroad. He remains in a Beijing hospital, where he is being treated for a broken foot he incurred during his escape. He has also applied for a passport.

Mr. Chen's case has galvanized China's beleaguered Gongmin legal movement, a loose association of lawyers advocating legal and constitutional changes. …

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