Chen Guangcheng: Party “Makes No Effort to Reform”

Legal activist Chen Guangcheng, now based in New York, recently provided more details about the treatment in detention of his nephew, Chen Kegui, who is serving a prison sentence for injuring officials who entered his home after his uncle escaped from home detention. From Radio Free Asia:

“On Feb. 28, my elder brother went to visit my nephew Chen Kegui in the detention center and, for the first time, Chen Kegui told his dad with great fear that he had been tortured,” Chen Guangcheng said at a human rights forum in Washington.


He said that China’s ruling Chinese Communist Party’s secretary of the local public security bureau had also threatened Chen Kegui that if he were to try to appeal his case, his prison term would be extended to a “life sentence.”

“They also threaten the lives of his parents and his children. On a daily basis in the detention center he is reminded of those threats,” Chen said.

At a recent talk at Yale University, Chen spoke about legal reform in China with regards to his nephew’s case. From the Yale Daily News:

At a panel sponsored by the China Law Center, Chen and two other panelists — New York University Law School professor Jerome A. Cohen ’51 LAW ’55, who is a co-director of the U.S.-Asia Law Institute, and New York University Law School professor Ira Belkin, the executive director of the U.S.-Asia Law Institute — discussed different aspects of the criminal justice system in China as well as structural and systematic difficulties within it. Chen said the greatest threat to the well-being of China’s legal system is that the Communist Party of China is above the law.

“The laws are always guided by party policies,” Chen said. “That’s the fundamental reality of how the law system actually works in China today and the biggest barrier to the law system from improving.”


After the village Party Committee discovered his escape from house arrest, he said, the party vice secretary took “gangsters” to his brother’s home and started beating him, his wife and son with clubs, smashing all possessions and robbing all valuables. Chen’s brother was detained on no legal basis, while the thugs continued beating his sister-in-law and his nephew, Chen added. His nephew, beaten half to death, grabbed a knife and attempted to resist the gangsters without seriously wounding anyone — a few days later, though, his nephew was accused of malicious injury, he said. Chen’s nephew was later sentenced to three years and three months in prison without proper legal procedure, while those who attacked him faced no charges.

“The party can get away with crimes of breaking and entering, robbery and beating people up, while the person who resists all of this becomes the criminal,” Chen said.

In a recent interview with the South China Morning Post, Chen expressed skepticism over the likelihood of the Chinese government implementing rule of law and constitutionalism under the leadership of Xi Jinping:

Do you believe that the new Chinese leadership is embarking on a genuine “rule of law” campaign in the wake of the recent Bo Xilai and princeling corruption scandals?

I think the idea that Xi Jinping will change as a result of the Bo Xilai affair is completely unfounded. The most important thing is to look at his actions. We have all heard enough nice talk, and the key now is to look at what he does. If there are specific actions taken, then we can believe the talk.

Under the current system, the Communist Party sits brazenly above the constitution and the law and makes no effort to reform.

What specifically would have to happen to indicate to you that this effort of the new leadership is genuine and a sign of progress?

For example, they could eliminate policies that restrict the formation of other political parties and press freedoms, and truly protect freedom of speech. They could separate the power of the party from the government, which now affects all levels of government, from the central authorities to the local authorities. Make the judiciary independent. Let the party manage its affairs, and let the government carry out its duties according to the law. If they can do this, we will believe them.

So, up to now they haven’t introduced any new measures that might mark a path towards change?

No. If they put out a timeline, I would believe that. Unfortunately, at the moment, under the current system, the Communist Party sits brazenly above the constitution and the law and makes no effort to reform. How, in this scenario, are we to believe they will respect the constitution?

Read more about Chen Guangcheng and Chen Kegui via CDT.


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