[JURIST] The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders [official website] on Friday urged China to end retaliatory efforts [press release] against Chen Guangcheng [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], a blind human rights lawyer who successfully fled the communist country earlier this year, by immediately releasing the activist’s nephew. According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website], Chen’s nephew, Chen Kegui, was arrested when local officials raided his family’s home without a warrant, just after Chen Guangcheng himself escaped house arrest, fled to the US Embassy in Beijing, and was allowed to travel to the US to pursue an education at New York University [academic website]. Chen Kegui has since been sentenced to three years and three months in prison for injuring an officer during the raid and has been subjected to months of detention without communications. The UN expert, Margaret Sekaggya [official profile, PDF], strongly condemned Chen Kegui’s treatment and demanded that the Chinese government work to ensure that the fundamental human rights of activists and their families are not violated as a result of their peaceful activities. In particular, Sekaggya stressed her discontent with Chen Kegui’s lack of legal representation at his trial on November 30 and noted that the legal proceeding in no way appeared equal between the prosecution and defense. The Special Rapporteur ended her plea by calling on China to promptly investigate all acts perpetrated against human rights defenders and their families, and to prosecute those responsible.
Chen Guangcheng, an outspoken activist known as China’s “barefoot lawyer,” was originally wanted in his rural town for exposing forced abortions and other human rights abuses. In May he urged the US Council on Foreign Relations [official website] to “try harder” to promote the rule of law [JURIST report] in China. Chen arrived in New York only a week earlier after he left the US embassy [JURIST reports] earlier in the month. His arrival resolved a US-China struggle that began when he escaped [JURIST report] from his house arrest and sought refuge at the US embassy in Beijing in April. The house arrest began after Chen had already served four years in prison [JURIST reports] for damaging property and “organizing a mob to disturb traffic.”