Photo by Laurent Fievet/AFP/GettyImages
While blind dissident Chen Guangchen waits in a Beijing hospital for permission to travel to the United States, Chinese officials have reportedly taken out their apparent hard feelings on the legal activist's family.
The Associated Press reports Thursday that Chen's brother and sister-in-law are under house arrest in Chen's home province of Shandong, where the activist spent 20 months under house arrest before his dramatic escape in late April. A half-dozen other relatives also face increased restrictions in the province, according to Chen, his lawyers and rights groups.
Chen's nephew, Chen Kegui, is reportedly in police custody related to an alleged confrontation he had with Chinese officials after they broke into his home following Chen Guangchen's escape from house arrest.
Speaking to the Guardian, Chen called the restrictions a "crazy retaliation" against his family, adding that he was worried about the fate of his relatives who would not be accompanying him to the United States, provided an agreement to allow Chen to study abroad goes through.
After escaping confinement, Chen eventually negotiated a deal that would allow him, his wife, and his children to leave China for the U.S. on a student visa. The activist has been offered fellowships at both New York University and the University of Washington. Chinese officials said last week that Chen could apply to study abroad through normal channels, and U.S. diplomats have expressed confidence that his application will be approved.