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Cancer victim with jailed family faces China land battle
by Staff Writers
Changzhou, China (AFP) April 29, 2013

Chinese activist's nephew 'denied medical parole'
Beijing (AFP) April 30, 2013 - The jailed nephew of Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng has been denied medical parole despite suffering from life-threatening acute appendicitis, the prisoner's father said Tuesday.

Chen Kegui, arrested last year in what supporters allege was retribution by authorities over his uncle's escape from house arrest, needs hospital treatment as his appendix is in danger of rupturing, his father Chen Guangfu said.

"We have applied for medical parole but the prison did not approve it," he told AFP.

"We are very worried. Medical experts say the appendix could easily burst. There is a risk to his life," Chen said, adding: "The prison hospital is unable to deal with the kind of illness Chen Kegui has."

Prison officials said they would make their own arrangements for treating Chen Kegui, he said, adding that he had been permitted to visit his son in prison several times.

His comments came after a lawyer for Chen Guangcheng, resident in the US following a dramatic escape to Beijing's US embassy last year, appealed for help from the United Nations, saying without medical attention Chen Kegui could die.

In an apparent concession, local prosecutors appear to have dropped a case against Chen Kegui's mother, Ren Zongju, whom they accused of "harbouring a criminal" for helping her son before his capture, Chen Guangfu added.

But Chen Guangfu described a continued campaign of harassment against his family, with local thugs attacking his house with rocks, and posters describing his family as "traitors" placed on nearby streets.

"There is no guarantee of our safety. We have received serious threats," Chen said of his home in Dongshigu, a village in eastern China's Shandong province, where Chen Guangcheng was held under house arrest for years.

The US-based advocacy group China Aid said "government-hired thugs" attacked the home of Chen Guangfu in the early hours of Tuesday, hurling beer bottles and bricks at the house and shining headlights.

Chen Guangcheng, a blind self-taught lawyer, escaped from house arrest a year ago to the US embassy. He was allowed to leave for New York after tense negotiations between the two countries.

Chen told AFP in a recent interview that officials had targeted his nephew in retaliation.

Chen Kegui was sentenced to more than three years in prison in November for assaulting authorities who descended on his village but supporters said he had acted in self-defence.

Chen Guangcheng had run afoul of authorities in eastern Shandong province by exposing forced abortions and sterilisations under China's one-child policy. He was jailed and later reported severe beatings while under house arrest.

His frail body is ravaged by cancer and age, his wife and son are in a Chinese prison and Yao Baohua is awaiting trial himself, but he is still determined to fight for his house and land.

The Yao home is the last one standing in the rubble of a vast development site in Changzhou, a Chinese "nail house", the moniker earned for both their physical appearance and their owners' stubborn resistance.

The former mathematics teacher is one of the few to make a stand against the devastating side effects of China's breakneck urbanisation, which can see entire villages uprooted to make way for industry and housing developments -- often with the help of corrupt officials and police.

"Everyone else has gone, fight by fight, tear by tear," said the 75-year-old, breathing heavily in a bed at Changzhou People's Number Two hospital, recovering from an operation on a stomach tumour.

"But I will never give up. It is an illegal development," he added, raising his fists defiantly as aggressive security staff forced out his visitors.

Yao's plight is typical of disputes over land expropriation that China's then premier Wen Jiabao said last year "are still very serious and the people are still very concerned about them".

China has passed a series of regulations in recent years to protect land rights, including outlawing the use of violence during evictions and stipulating market rate compensation must be paid to relocated residents.

But local officials often ignore the rules, say researchers and campaigners.

China's newly appointed President Xi Jinping pledged last December to implement the rule of law, in comments that appeared aimed at rising social discontent over government corruption and police brutality.

"We must firmly establish throughout society the authority of the constitution and the law and allow the overwhelming masses to fully believe in the law," Xi said in comments carried by state broadcaster China Central Television.

Yao is the only one of 89 homeowners on a 12-hectare (30 acre) plot to refuse the 4,000 yuan ($640) per square metre compensation offered under a relocation scheme arranged by local officials.

But Yao insists property in Zhonglou -- a few miles from the centre of Changzhou, one of the richest cities in the affluent eastern province of Jiangsu -- commonly fetches almost twice as much.

His family resisted efforts by hired thugs to forcibly evict them last September, he says.

But officials say most of his neighbours left willingly, and that Yao's opposition delayed many moving into their new homes for years.

An official from Zhonglou legal department added the works were "being carried out in accordance with the relevant policies and standards".

Yao first took up the land issue 10 years ago, when he began campaigning for villagers, and in 2006 was sentenced to 15 months in a "re-education" labour camp after petitioning for nearby farmers, a struggle which also saw his wife and son detained.

The family joined in another campaign in Zhonglou, which saw angry clashes between construction workers and residents in November 2011.

His daughter Yao Qin said the residents were originally offered nothing but officials eventually paid them a total of 700,000 RMB.

When the family resisted plans to develop their own community, they were subjected to a campaign of terror, she added. Windows were smashed, doors kicked in, and fireworks set off by thugs, while the police refused to help, she said.

In December the entire family were arrested for public order offences relating to the 2011 protests. Yao Qin, 49, has since been granted bail, but her mother and brother remain in custody.

"This is political persecution. It is not just about forced evictions. The second Cultural Revolution is coming," she told AFP.

Yao's lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan questioned the authorities' motives for the detentions.

"When Yao's family were the only ones that refused to sign the contract, they were arrested because of revenge by the local government," he told AFP.

Zhonglou district police spokeswoman, Fei Xingwei, told AFP Yao had been charged with extortion over the 2011 protests, involving "huge amounts of money." His lawyer said he was not aware of any such accusations.

Jinyan Real Estate Development Company, who are developing that site, told AFP Yao's opposition had caused huge delays to the project.

Social unrest is anathema to China's ruling Communist Party, but protests have risen steadily since the 1990s and there were an estimated 180,000 in 2010, according to research by professor Sun Liping of Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Land rights are a common cause, he said in a report last year, with reforms "held hostage" by opponents including government bureaucrats and the property industry.

"Officials can obtain land at a cheap price through administrative means and then turn around and sell it for a high price on the market," the report said. "Is there anything more valuable than this to powerful vested interests in the amassing of wealth?"


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