China: UN expert condemns as ‘retaliation’ the conviction of a prominent rights defender’s relative

GENEVA (7 December 2012) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, urged the Government of China to release the nephew of blind human rights defender Chen Guangcheng, who currently lives in the United States, and to stop further acts of retaliation against Chen Guangcheng’s family.

After months in incommunicado detention, Chen Kegui was sentenced to three years and three months in prison on 30 November 2012 for ‘intentional infliction of injury’ at the end of a trial that lasted only a few hours. Chen Kegui was arrested after local officials raided his family’s house without a warrant in Shandong province on 26 April 2012; he was later charged with injuring an officer.

The raid was conducted after his uncle Chen Guangcheng had escaped house arrest and gone to Beijing, where he found refuge in the US Embassy, before being allowed to travel to the US to pursue his studies.

“It is difficult to see the conviction of Chen Kegui as anything else but retaliation against Chen Guangcheng for defying the Chinese Government,” Ms. Sekaggya said. “I condemn in the strongest terms the conviction of Chen Kegui and urge the Chinese Government to ensure that human rights defenders and their families do not face violations of their fundamental rights as a result of their peaceful human rights activities.”

The human rights expert also noted that the Chen family is not alone in being targeted for the human rights work of a family member, pointing to a pattern of surveillance, Internet and cell phone access being cut and house arrest, as in the case of Liu Xia, the wife of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

It is reported that Chen Kegui did not have legal representation of his choice and that he was not allowed to call any witnesses in his defence. His family was notified of the trial only hours before it took place, and they were allegedly not allowed to be present, despite being witnesses to what happened during the raid on their house. Chen Kegui and his family have always maintained that he acted in self-defence.

“I am particularly concerned about the lack of legal representation and the fact that Chen Kegui’s family members were not allowed to testify,” said Ms. Sekaggya. “The trial bears no sign of equal arms between the prosecution and the defence.”

“In light of the serious infringements on his right to a fair trial and due process guarantees, which I have already raised with the authorities, I urge the Government to release Chen Kegui and refrain from other acts of retaliation against Chen Guangcheng’s family,” the Special Rapporteur stressed. “Any such acts perpetrated against human rights defenders and their families should be promptly and adequately investigated and perpetrators prosecuted without further delay.”

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