WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States called Tuesday for Chinese authorities to provide immediate and proper medical treatment to the imprisoned nephew of Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, said to be suffering from appendicitis but denied medical parole.
U.S. officials have previously voiced concern over the harsh treatment of the nephew, Chen Kegui, who was sentenced in November to three years in prison, for fighting officials who stormed his house in the aftermath of his uncle's escape from house arrest a year ago. Chen Guangcheng's escape presaged his move to the United States where he has been stridently critical of Beijing.
The blind legal activist accuses China of reneging on assurances made to the U.S. that his relatives would be treated according to the law, and says Chen Kegui has been subjected to beatings and threats in custody. His father Chen Guangfu, who is allowed to visit Chen Kegui once a month, said the nephew told him last Thursday that he was in pain and had appendicitis.
The father said that he tried to see him again on Monday at Linyi prison but was rebuffed and told Kegui's application for medical parole was denied. A prison medic told him that the appendicitis was being treated with antibiotics and that an infection had caused a cyst.
Human Rights Watch said the treatment is inadequate and threatens Chen Kegui's life.
"To deny him appropriate treatment reflects at best incompetence and at worst a twisted effort to torment the Chen family," the group's China director, Sophie Richardson, said.
Calls to the prison in Linyi, in eastern China, and to the prison hospital rang unanswered Tuesday, a holiday.
"We remain deeply concerned by reports that Chen Kegui mistreatment in prison and of his acute medical condition," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters in Washington. He said U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke raised the case at the Foreign Ministry in Beijing on Tuesday.
Ventrell said the U.S. was also concerned by credible reports that local authorities continue to harass Chen Kegui's family members in his home village.
Unidentified people hurled bricks and bottles at Chen Guangfu's home early Tuesday, the U.S.-based monitoring and lobbying group China Aid Association reported. Earlier in April, dead chickens were thrown into the house's courtyard, and posters went up in their village of Dongshigu calling the family traitors.
Ventrell would not elaborate on how continued harsh treatment of Chen Guangcheng's relatives would affect bilateral relations but said it remains a "priority" for Washington. Secretary of State John Kerry raised it during a Beijing visit this month, he said.
Before his escape, local officials had kept Chen Guangcheng in prison or under house arrest. Chen had angered authorities with his legal activism for citizens' rights, including the disabled, and for exposing forced abortions in the rural communities around his home in Shandong province.