BEIJING — The brother of blind activist Chen Guangcheng has fled his village in northeastern China, evading a security clampdown to seek help from lawyers for his son, who has been detained in a case that has become a rallying point among rights activists.
Chen Guangfu, the eldest brother of Chen Guangcheng, said in an interview Thursday that he walked out of his home in Shandong province at 3 a.m. Tuesday, eluding sentries near his village by avoiding roads and running through fields. He arrived in Beijing on Wednesday evening after a six-hour journey by car.
His activist brother escaped Dongshigu village in late April after 19 months of detention at home, following a similar route to the capital before taking refuge in the U.S. Embassy, where he stayed for six days. The diplomatic crisis that ensued was defused Saturday when China allowed Chen to fly to the United States to study. But most of his family back home in Shandong has remained under a security clampdown.
The 55-year-old Chen Guangfu, in an interview in Beijing late Wednesday, recounted details of his torture and reprisals by authorities since his brother’s escape, although he noted that police in Shandong had warned him they would increase the sentence for his son, Chen Kegui, who is being held on an attempted murder charge, if he gave interviews.
“I feel since they are already doing this, why can’t I say something?” Chen Guangfu said. “I told them their claims have no legal basis.” He added that he planned to return to his village soon.
Chen Kegui, 32, was charged with attempted “intentional homicide” for using knives to fend off local officials who burst into his home the day after they discovered his uncle had escaped.
Local government and public security bureau officials were not immediately available for comment.
In an interview with Reuters in New York on Thursday, Chen Guangcheng suggested that China’s handling of the local officials who harassed and abused him and his family was critical.
“If authorities can promptly investigate and prosecute those lawless officials who broke China’s laws, then possibly China can rather quickly move onto the road of rule of law,” he said.
Chen said he remained “generally optimistic” about the outcome of his case and that of his family, in part because of the intense attention to it on the Internet.
Chen Guangfu, however, said he was “extremely pessimistic” about his son’s prospects.
Asked for his thoughts about his brother in the United States, Chen Guangfu said, “I think if he has a chance, he should take us there to have a look.
“So many people have said bad things about the United States. Someone even said he was like a dog that was kicked out of the U.S. Embassy,” he said. “But ultimately, he ended up in America. So I think the criticisms aren’t justified.”