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Chen Guangcheng's brother has fled village to seek legal advice, lawyer says

By Chi-Chi Zhang, CNN
May 25, 2012 -- Updated 0940 GMT (1740 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lawyer says he met with Chen Guangfu to discuss the case of his son
  • The son, Chen Kegui, was arrested, accused of murder after activist uncle fled village
  • Family hasn't been allowed to see Chen Kegui; there's heavy security around family's village
  • Activist Chen Guangcheng is in the U.S. after escaping house arrest in Shandong province

Beijing (CNN) -- The brother of Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng has fled his village in eastern China to Beijing to seek legal advice, his lawyer said Thursday.

Chen's arrival in the U.S. last week brought an end to a diplomatic firestorm between Beijing and Washington that erupted after he escaped from house arrest in Shandong province and took to YouTube to air the abuses he said his family suffered at the hands of authorities.

Chen and his wife and children have traveled to the U.S. for Chen to study at New York University, but activists remain concerned that extended family such as his brother and nephew remain vulnerable to further crackdowns.

His brother, Chen Guangfu, met with lawyer Ding Xikui on Thursday morning to discuss the case of his son, Chen Kegui, Ding said in a phone interview with CNN.

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Chen Kegui was arrested and accused of murder shortly after his uncle, activist Chen Guangcheng, escaped from their village of Dongshigu in Shandong province.

Chen Guangfu said earlier that his son surrendered to police and was formally arrested on May 9. But the family hasn't been allowed to see Chen Kegui in custody, and authorities have maintained heavy security around the family's village.

Ding said he doesn't know when Chen Guangfu fled the village, when he arrived in Beijing or how long he will stay, but Chen Guangfu told him during his visit Thursday that he escaped in the middle of the night.

Ding said Chen Kegui's wife had authorized him and another lawyer to defend Chen Kegui's case but was told by local officials that government lawyers had been appointed to represent him.

"We talked this morning," Ding said. "He wanted to chat about his son's case and to make sure we were still representing his case."

Ding said there are no immediate plans to visit Dongshigu village in Shandong. The village has been heavily guarded since Chen Guangcheng's escape last month, according to another lawyer, Jiang Tianyong, who spoke to Chen Guangfu briefly on the phone Thursday.

"He said the village is more guarded now, but did not get to mention if there were more police or thugs before the phone was cut off," Jiang said.

When asked over the phone if he heard about Chen Guangfu's escape, an official at the Linyi Public Security Bureau in Shandong, who refused to give his name, said, "We haven't heard of the news. We wouldn't have any information about Chen Guangcheng."

Calls to the Linyi Shanghou police station went unanswered.

Chen Guangcheng was sentenced in 2006 to four years and three months in prison for "damaging property and organizing a mob to disturb traffic," charges that his supporters say were trumped up by authorities to punish his legal advocacy for victims of what he called abusive family planning policies, including forced abortions and sterilization.

The self-taught legal activist was then held under constant lockdown in his village.

In an April video after his escape, Chen addressed the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, detailing alleged abuses during the family's 18 months of heavily guarded home detention.

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