Legal activist Chen Guangcheng, who is blind, slipped out of his closely guarded farmhouse last April and fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, setting off a diplomatic crisis with the United States. Chinese authorities later allowed him to go to the U.S., where he continues to draw attention to the intimidation of his relatives back home.
His brother, Chen Guangfu, said Yinan county prosecutors questioned his wife, Ren Zongju, 59, on Wednesday for an hour and a half and then notified her that they planned to indict her on the charge of harboring a suspect. Chen said the person who had allegedly been harbored was their son, who had fled authorities after attacking officials who had barged into his house and beat him.
The brother says harassment of his family has grown in recent weeks with dead chickens and ducks being hurled into his yard—at a time when bird flu concerns are high—and stones cast at his house, breaking windows and roof tiles. He says posters put up in his village call his family traitors.
Chen said the authorities' threat of prosecution against his wife was groundless and that the harassment was part of continued efforts by local authorities to punish Chen Guangcheng for his continued activism overseas by targeting his relatives.
"Guangcheng offended them but they find themselves helpless against him," Chen Guangfu said. "So instead, they use these rogue and terror tactics against his family to try to punish Guangcheng."
Calls to the county's prosecutors' office and police rang unanswered Thursday, while a woman who answered the phone at its Communist Party propaganda office said she did not know anything about Chen Guangcheng or the case.
The brother said he planned to hire lawyers but that he knew that authorities, who routinely harass rights lawyers, might prevent the attorneys from defending his wife.
Chen Guangfu's son, Chen Kegui, was convicted in November of attacking officials who stormed his house to search for his uncle, and was sentenced to three years and three months in prison. The family says he acted in self-defense.