Legal activist Chen Guangcheng’s nephew Chen Kegui has been sentenced to 39 months in prison after a sudden trial seen as an early litmus test for Xi Jinping’s new Party leadership. Chen was charged with intentionally injuring men who had broken into his home in the middle of the night to search for his escaped uncle. Unusually, the verdict and sentence were announced on the day of the trial itself. From Gillian Wong at the Associated Press:
“This is a case that tramples on the rule of law. It is a declaration of war against fairness and justice in the world. I absolutely cannot accept this and am very, very angry,” said Chen Guangcheng in an interview from his home in New York where he has been studying English and law. “There is no doubt that this is a kind of retaliation against me.”
[…] Since Chen Kegui disappeared into police custody in May, Yinan authorities have not officially notified his family about the prosecution nor have they let family members see him or hire their own lawyers to defend him. Lawyers were instead appointed to him, and one of them told his father Chen Guangfu about the trial only on Friday morning.
[…] “I feel very disappointed,” the father said. “I had believed that once the new generation of leaders came to power there would be improvements in the rule of law, but now it looks like the situation is still the same.”
Activist Hu Jia, a close friend of Chen Guangcheng and one of the first people he met with after his escape, described Chen Guangfu’s predicament on Twitter as the trial was underway:
— Hu Jia 胡佳 (@hu_jia) November 30, 2012
Chen Kegui’s father, Chen Guangfu, has at no point been able to make direct representations to the courthouse staff: as soon as he set foot through the door, he was surrounded by Yinan county police who bluntly informed him that he could only be present [if he testified] as a witness, and that if he refused they would not let him attend the trial. Now ten or so policemen are surrounding him, some of whom previously took part in Chen Guangcheng’s case. He’s waiting across the road from the courthouse for word of the hearing’s result.
— Hu Jia 胡佳 (@hu_jia) November 30, 2012
Chen Guangfu may be the unhappiest person of all today. In the morning, he directed the memorial ceremony for his father; afterwards, he immediately dashed to the courthouse, hoping to see in person the son who’s been away in prison for 218 days. But in the end he could only witness his son’s twisted trial.
Chen explained to The Guardian that “I hoped they would tell me early so that I could prepare, but since they didn’t, there is nothing I can do. I have not heard from my son, and the lawyers appointed by government didn’t tell me anything.” Following the trial, The Guardian’s Tania Branigan reported reactions from the family’s preferred lawyers:
Chen Wuquan, who was hired by Chen Kegui’s family to defend him but rejected by the court, said: “I can’t accept the result. Chen Kegui is not guilty at all. His behaviour was legitimate self-defence, not the crime of intentional injury. From a legal perspective, the result is unacceptable.”
[…] Teng Biao, another lawyer rejected by the court, said holding the case at such short notice ensured that they had no time to reach Yinan to help the family with legal advice.
Teng added that the defendant’s relatives had not seen him since his detention, noting: “No one has a clue about his condition.”
Human rights organisations have given scathing assessments of the trial. From Amnesty International’s Roseann Rife and Human Rights Watch’s Sophie Richardson, respectively:
“Chen Kegui was today tried by the same court that in 2006 sentenced his uncle Chen Guangcheng to prison on trumped up charges. The family has since suffered a catalogue of abuse at the hands of local authorities which central authorities have failed to investigate despite promises to the contrary.
“The sentence is appalling. It is clear that Chen Kegui’s trial was not fair. We are concerned that sentencing him to imprisonment for something that many consider self defence is nothing more than retaliation for his uncle’s escape.”
“Prosecuting Chen Guangcheng’s nephew was a test of China’s respect for the rule of law, and both the nephew, Chen Kegui, and the rule of law lost [….] This case bore the same disturbing hallmarks as Chen Guangcheng’s persecution – incommunicado detention, denial of lawyers of his choice, and a politicized and closed trial.”
[…] “Chen Kegui’s case not only violated Chinese and international legal standards, it also suggests that the new leadership in Beijing can’t or won’t follow through on commitments to investigate local officials implicated in wrongdoing and egregious human rights abuses [….] And that in turn is a worrying indication of what lies ahead.”