The brother of blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng has escaped strict security in their home village and traveled to Beijing to meet with a lawyer on Thursday. Chen Guangfu follows in the footsteps of his youngest brother, whose escape from Dongshigu village to the protection of the U.S. embassy in Beijing set off a heated diplomatic standoff between the U.S. and China. Chen Guangcheng, his wife and their two children were eventually allowed to leave for the U.S. They arrived last weekend in New York City, where Chen Guangcheng, 40, will take up a fellowship at New York University.
But while he is now safe from the reach of officials in Shandong province who have sought to punish him for drawing global attention to illegal forced abortions and sterilizations, Chen Guangcheng’s extended family still faces severe pressure at home. Chen Guangfu, 55, traveled to Beijing to meet with a lawyer to discuss the case of his son Chen Kegui, who has been arrested and charged with attempted murder. “He’s worried about his son’s case and worried that he might have been tortured,” says Ding Xikui, the lawyer who met with Chen Guangfu in Beijing. Chen Kegui is accused of using kitchen knives to slash local officials who entered his house late at night after they discovered that Chen Guangcheng had escaped. In an interview with U.S.-based writer Yaxue Cao shortly after the incident, Chen Kegui said he acted in self-defense. Thus far Ding says he has not been able to meet with his client. When Ding traveled to Shandong to meet him, police officers said Chen Kegui had already chosen to use two government-appointed lawyers and refused to let Ding meet with him, according to a complaint filed by Ding and Si Weijiang, another attorney approved by the family.
Ding says Chen Guangfu escaped in the middle of the night, slipping out of his house and walking past sleeping guards. Dongshigu, where Chen Guangcheng and his wife Yuan Weijing lived under house arrest for 19 months, is a notoriously rough place, filled with hired goons who blocked journalists, diplomats and supporters (including Batman star Christian Bale) from visiting the blind legal activist. But while they’ve been good at wielding fists, sticks and stones to keep people out, the guards haven’t been so competent at keeping people in. First, Chen Guangcheng escaped by sneaking through rings of security, despite his lack of sight and a broken foot he suffered from jumping over his farmhouse wall. And now, a month later, his eldest brother Chen Guangfu followed. And he too wants to make his case public. On Twitter and Sina Weibo this afternoon, a photo circulated of Chen Guangfu on a street in Beijing holding a sign that read “Kegui is innocent.” “I feel since they are already doing this, why can’t I say something?” Chen Guangfu said in an interview with Reuters. “I have the power to speak up.”