China activist Chen's relatives describe beatings

Relatives of blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng speak out

Relatives of Chen Guangcheng have described beatings meted out by local officials after the Chinese activist's escape from house arrest last month.

In their first face-to-face interviews since then, Mr Chen's brother, Chen Guangfu, said he was detained for three days and two nights, interrogated and beaten.

His wife, Ren Zongju, also described how their son, Chen Kegui, was beaten.

Their village, Dongshigu, in Shandong province, remains sealed off.

The interviews were conducted by - a Hong Kong-based magazine - in May 2012 and obtained by the BBC on Thursday.

No other journalists have been able to enter the village since Mr Chen's flight to the US embassy in late April.

The blind activist is now waiting in a Beijing hospital with his wife and two children for passports to be issued so they can travel to the United States.

'Face bleeding'

Brother Chen Guangfu said officials came to his house after the activist's escape. He was hooded and taken away in a car by men in plain clothes.

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The fate of all of the relatives and friends who helped Chen is now a real concern. Their crime, let's remember, was to help a blind man who was being illegally confined in his own home to break free...”

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"They put me on a chair, bound my feet with iron chains and locked my hands with handcuffs behind my back," he said. "They pulled my hands upwards forcefully. Then they slapped me in the face."

"They first asked me if I knew what this was about. I said 'I don't know'. So they beat me and slapped my face. Only on one side, not the other. And they trampled my feet with their leather shoes."

He told them it was him who had helped Mr Chen because he did not want to implicate others involved, but then realised they knew more details.

''I resisted for a really long time,'' he said. ''In the end I couldn't hold out any more.''

The officials also told Chen Guangfu that his son, Chen Kegui, had hacked and wounded officials. Chen Kegui has since been charged with "intentional homicide", but his lawyer says he was acting in self-defence.

Chen Guangfu's wife, Ren Zongju, said officials were attacking her son.

"They started fighting inside the house. So many people were beating him. His face was bleeding, and his legs. His trousers were ripped," she said.

"He said to me 'Mum, I need to get out immediately'. We had 1,000 yuan... So I picked it up and gave it to my son."

On Friday prominent human rights lawyers said they had been prevented from defending Chen Kegui. The handful of lawyers who have volunteered to defend him told reporters that local officials were not allowing them or Chen Kegui's family members to see him.

Two government-appointed lawyers have been assigned to him instead, police told one of the lawyers, Mr Ding Xikui.

"According to Chinese law, every suspect can only be represented by two lawyers,'' said Mr Ding. ''So we have no way of intervening now.''

'Pattern' of abuse

On Tuesday Chen Guangcheng accused local authorities of ''a pattern'' of abuse against his relatives in a telephone call to a US congressional committee.

The self-taught lawyer, who campaigned against forced abortions under China's one-child policy, was himself jailed in 2006 for disrupting traffic and damaging property, and placed under house arrest after his release in 2010.

He spent six days in the US embassy last month after escaping house arrest, but left to seek medical treatment. He then said that he wanted to go to the US because he feared for his safety.

Amid a diplomatic crisis between the US and China over his fate, Mr Chen was offered a place to study law at New York University after Beijing said he would be allowed to apply to study abroad.

The US says the visas for Mr Chen and his family are ready, and he has since completed his application for a passport. Officials told him on Wednesday that the process should take 15 days.

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