Blind Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng has said he fears reprisals against his family once he leaves China, but now it looks like the Chinese government decided not to wait for him to go before starting in on what Chen calls "crazy retaliation." Obviously the fear is that if officials are this brazen in their crackdown on Chen's people now, with the international media spotlight still on him, they'll be merciless once he and the reporters covering him leave.
The reprisals so far include arrests of Chen's family members, restricting their movements, and confiscating their cell phones. "My sister-in-law was arrested and is now released on bail. They have accused her of harbouring a fugitive, but they didn't say who," Chen told The Guardian's Jonathan Watts. But most of the details about the backlash on Chen's family can be found in Chris Buckley and Sui-Lee Wee's Reuters' report and that of The Associated Press' Gillian Wong, which explain that Chen's nephew, Chen Kegui, has been arrested for "intentional homicide" and his brother and sister-in-law both placed under house arrest.
"He said police had detained Chen Kegui after the nephew was accused of brandishing a kitchen cleaver at guards who had stormed into the home of the blind dissident's brothers after his bold escape prompted a panicked search by officials," Reuters' Buckley and Wee reported. And the AP's Wong writes that "the Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a network of activists in China, said around a dozen of Chen's relatives in the village of Dongshigu are under some form of house arrest, including Chen's cousin and the cousin's son."
It's got to be an awful position for Chen, who escaped from house arrest to the safety of the U.S. embassy. His entire extended family can't do the same, but from the sound of it, they're feeling the blowback from his escape.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.