Chinese activist's nephew 'denied medical parole'

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.