Largely silent since his departure from China, Chen Guangcheng has begun to speak out in interviews about his detention and escape, reiterating his hopes for an investigation of the Linyi local government and his fears for those he left behind.
Talking through an interpreter to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Chen was reluctant to discuss his four-year prison term or subsequent confinement in Dongshigu, but asked that the latter be referred to as “illegal detention”, rather than the more innocuous “house arrest”. “It’s hard for me to describe what it was like during that time,” he said, “but let’s just say that my suffering was beyond imagination.” He also highlighted the role of Guo Yushan in his escape, but made an apparent attempt to defuse recent disagreement over who deserved credit, and once again expressed concern for family and supporters still in China.
“There’s one thing I want to mention that may be a surprise to many people,” Chen said. “When a group of people come together and accomplish something, they often fight for credit. In my case, all those people who went to Shandong to pick me up, when the news broke, they were fighting for risk instead of credit. They were all trying to claim responsibility to make others safer.”
Chen, who’s blind, fears the Chinese government may retaliate against acquaintances who helped him, he said.
“Of course, I’m very worried. We can see their retribution against my family since my escape has continued and been intensified,” Chen said.
Foremost among the reprisals is the prosecution of Chen’s nephew, Chen Kegui, for attempted murder. Local authorities have rejected his family’s choice of lawyers and appointed their own to defend him: an echo, Chen Guangcheng says, of his own treatment in 2006. Chen’s family are now fighting this decision. From Josh Chin at China Real Time Report:
In the most recent development, Liu Fang, the wife of Mr. Chen’s nephew, Chen Kegui, has written a letter to local authorities demanding that her husband be allowed to meet with the lawyers she has commissioned to represent him.
The letter comes a few days after Mr. Chen’s brother, Chen [Guangfu], escaped guards in the family’s home village near Linyi in Shandong province to consult with lawyers in Beijing about his son’s case.
Chen Kegui faces a charge of attempted murder for slashing local officials with a kitchen knife after the officials burst into the home of his father a few days after Chen Guangcheng escaped. Lawyers and family members argue Chen Kegui was acting in self-defense and say the attempted murder charge is wildly excessive.
“My older brother escapes house arrest and comes to Beijing in search of a lawyer for my nephew,” Chen said in the interview.
“This is an extremely normal thing, and the most basic right of a Chinese citizen. If even this right cannot be ensured then I think development in the construction of China’s legal system over the past few decades has already been undone by law-breaking officials within the political system,” he said ….
Chen described the harassment and abuse of his family and supporters as “obviously a violation of China’s constitution, and is despicable.”
“The Chinese Foreign Ministry has said more than once that I am a free person. Did I do anything wrong by leaving my home? If other people helped me leave … this is something that should be praised. Why then when I leave do they break into my home to beat people, detain them,” he said.