“He was convicted in a summary trial in which he was not fully represented by legal counsel of his choosing,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Hu Jia, an activist friend of Chen Guangcheng’s, who reported the conviction and sentencing on his Twitter account, said by telephone that he had spoken with a Chen relative allowed inside the courtroom in Linyi city, in eastern Shandong province. The relative told him that Chen Kegui had said he would not appeal and that he would pay compensation to the official who was most badly injured in the melee. Hu said that those statements, if accurate, suggest that Chen might feel like “a hostage” of Shandong officials.
“What Chen Kegui said in court is so surprising,” Hu said. “I don’t think a normal person would say he wouldn’t appeal. He must be brainwashed or be under big pressure.”
Chen’s father, Chen Guangfu, the brother of the blind activist, was notified late Friday morning that his son’s trial would begin at 2 p.m. He was not allowed into the courtroom during the proceedings and waited outside, under the eye of plainclothes policemen. Family members were not permitted to hire a lawyer for Chen Kegui, who was represented at the trial by a government-appointed attorney.
“My son is innocent. Three years and three months is too heavy for him,” the elder Chen said. “This is the revenge of the government on Chen Guangcheng.
. . .
Chen Kegui has replaced Chen Guangcheng to serve this sentence.”
Chen Guangcheng — who escaped house arrest in April, took refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and was later given safe passage to travel to the United States to study — has long said that he feared that his relatives would face government reprisals.
How Chen Guangcheng’s relatives fared back in Shandong province has been seen as a test of whether the Beijing government would honor its verbal commitment to Chen to investigate his years of illegal home imprisonment and to protect his family from the vengeance of local officials.
Chen Kegui, who is 33, was seen as the most likely target of such revenge because he used a kitchen knife to try to ward off the men who burst into his home at midnight last April 26. It turned out that the men were local officials searching for Chen Guangcheng. One of those stabbed was Zhang Jian, the chief of Shuanghou town.
“Chen Kegui is a hostage in the hands of the government to control Chen Guangcheng,” Hu said. “This is their revenge.”
Hu pointed out that Zhang Gaoli, a former Communist Party secretary in Shandong province, was elevated to the powerful Politburo Standing Committee during the recently concluded 18th Party Congress.