Chen Kegui. Image credit: Reuters.
The nephew of blind activist Chen Guangcheng, whose dramatic flight from house arrest to the US embassy caused a huge international incident earlier this year, has been sentenced to three years and three months in prison after a sudden trial in Shandong province.
Chen Kegui had been held incommunicado by police for over six months and was denied access to his choice of lawyers. Both his family and human rights advocates have called the case illegitimate.
Chen Kegui was initially charged with “intentional homicide” for using knives to fend off local officials who burst into his home on April 27, the day after they discovered his blind uncle had escaped from 19 months of harsh house arrest in eastern Shandong province and fled to the U.S. embassy in Beijing.
Police had downgraded the charge because they had no evidence to build a case of “intentional homicide” against him, Chen Guangcheng has said.
Chen Guangfu, Chen Kegui’s father, said the verdict meant China has no rule of law.
“This verdict is absolutely unjust. His behavior was completely reasonable self defense. When it came out (the verdict), I lost hope in the law,” Chen Guangfu told Reuters by telephone.
The seeming capitulation of the Chinese government in allowing Chen Guangcheng to fly to the US was seen at the time as a victory for rights activists. Many Chinese commentators have argued that while local cadres may engage in corruption and rights abuses, the central CPC agencies are more respectful of the rule of law and the Chen case seemed to support this. However, Chen Kegui’s harsh treatment and sentence begs the question of whether he is intended to serve as an example of the consequences of embarrassing Beijing.