A brother of the blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng, whose decision to seek refuge in the US Embassy here after evading illegal house arrest prompted a diplomatic standoff between China and the United States, has slipped through the security cordon around his village and made his way to the capital, according to a lawyer who met him Thursday.
The brother, Chen Guangfu, said he came to Beijing to advocate on behalf of his son, who has been in police custody since attacking a group of plainclothes officers who broke into the family home in their search for Chen Guangcheng. He also said the family’s village in the northeastern province of Shandong has been subjected to the same severe restrictions that drove his brother to seek sanctuary.
Chen Guangfu, 55, a farmer and itinerant laborer, said he slipped out of the village Tuesday while his minders slept.
“Legally, Chen Guangfu is a free man, but in reality, guards had been preventing him from leaving his village,’’ said Ding Xikui, a Beijing lawyer.
In addition to infuriating local officials, Chen Guangfu’s arrival in Beijing is likely to draw renewed attention to the plight of those who were left behind last weekend when Chen Guangcheng, his wife, and two children boarded a commercial flight for the United States. Their departure ended a three-week diplomatic impasse that had threatened to sour relations between the two governments.
Chen Guangcheng, 40, a self-trained “barefoot lawyer’’ whose legal fight against coercive family-planning policies earned him the enmity of local officials, is attending New York University Law School on a fellowship.
In remarks he made shortly before leaving China on Saturday, Chen Guangcheng said he was worried his relatives and the half-dozen activists who helped him evade security agents in Beijing would be punished.
Except for a brief news conference last Sunday upon his arrival in New York, Chen Guangcheng has remained out of public view. Friends say he and his wife are looking for schools for their children and trying to decide what to say to the news media - and whether their comments might hurt supporters back home.
In the unwritten deal that paved the way for Chen Guangcheng to leave the embassy, Chinese officials said they would investigate the local Shandong officials who orchestrated his 19 months of house arrest - and the beatings periodically administered to him and his wife.
It is unclear whether such an investigation has begun.
“There is still some hope, but if nothing is done, it shows that these were just empty promises,’’ said Wang Songlian, a researcher at Chinese Human Rights Defenders.