Lawyers for China dissident’s nephew say they face threats

BEIJING, May 11: Chinese legal authorities have confiscated the licence of one lawyer and threatened to do the same to another after they volunteered to defend Chen Kegui, the nephew of blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng.
The moves come as Chen Guangcheng, whose escape last month sparked an international furore, said Chinese officials were “going crazy” with reprisals against his family in eastern Shandong province in revenge for his recent escape from house arrest.
Chen Guangcheng’s escape caused embarrassment for China and led to a diplomatic crisis in US-Sino relations.
The Chinese Communist Party has always been wary of lawyers, who officials suspect could challenge one-party rule through their advocacy of the rule of law. Authorities have frequently sought to prevent lawyers from taking up politically sensitive cases by suspending their licences to practise law.
Chen Wuquan, a lawyer based in the southern province of Guangdong, told Reuters the Guangzhou Lawyers’ Association had confiscated his licence “temporarily” last week during a standard annual renewal of licences. The lawyer Chen is not related to the Chen family from Shandong.
The association told Chen Wuquan they could not renew his annual licence because they had to deal with a complaint about an article he had written concerning the direction the Chinese legal system is taking.
“It should be related (to the Chen Kegui case),” Chen Wuquan said. “Because this kind of complaint should be processed quickly. It’s not possible that they would have to confiscate my licence and not allow me to handle new cases.”
The justice ministry was not available for comment.
Chen Wuquan was supposed to travel to Shandong on Thursday to meet with Chen Kegui, who was accused of “intentional homicide” on Wednesday, according to a copy of the statement seen by Reuters.
Chen Guangcheng told Reuters his biggest worry now was for his nephew Chen Kegui, who is accused of brandishing a kitchen cleaver at guards who stormed into the home of the blind dissident’s brothers after his bold escape prompted a panicked search by officials.
Liu Weiguo, who was initially supposed to be the lead lawyer representing Chen Kegui, told Reuters state security officers threatened him in late April to drop the case, saying his licence could be revoked and they would meet with his family members. Liu then appointed Chen Wuquan to replace him.
(agencies)

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