- Last Updated: 8:57 AM, May 18, 2012
- Posted: 8:20 AM, May 18, 2012
DONGSHIGU, China -- Relatives of blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng have told for the first time how they were beaten and interrogated by officials after his high-profile escape from house arrest last month.
Chen sparked a diplomatic row when he sought refuge at the US embassy, making headlines around the world and causing a major embarrassment for Beijing only days before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived for pre-arranged talks.
In an interview with Hong Kong-based magazine isunaffairs.com which has been subsequently reported by the BBC, the 40-year-old legal campaigner's brother Chen Guanfu tells how officials hunted him down after Chen's daring escape.
He says he was hooded, handcuffed and aggressively interrogated for two days and three nights.
"They put me on a chair, bound my feet with iron chains and locked my hands with handcuffs behind my back," he said. "They pulled my hands upwards forcefully. Then they slapped me in the face.
"They first asked me if I knew what this was about. I said 'I don't know,' so they beat me and slapped my face. Only on one side, not the other. And they trampled my feet with their leather shoes."
"I resisted for a really long time," he said. "In the end I couldn't hold out any more."
Chen Guanfu's wife Ren Zongju said their son was also brutally beaten and later charged with "intentional homicide" after allegedly attacking officials. His lawyers say he was acting in self-defense.
She said she had to pay officials to stop attacking her son, Chen Kegui.
"They started fighting inside the house. So many people were beating him. His face was bleeding, and his legs. His trousers were ripped," she said. "He said to me 'Mom, I need to get out immediately.' We had 1,000 yuan (US$160) so I picked it up and gave it to my son."
Their home village of Dongshigu in Shandong province has been sealed off to journalists since Chen's escape in late April.
China has since agreed to issue him a passport allowing him to go to the US.
Chen, who is being treated in the hospital after leaving the US embassy, first won plaudits for exposing rights abuses including forced sterilizations and late-term abortions under China's "one-child" family planning policy.
His activism earned him a four-year prison sentence that ended in 2010 when he was placed under extra-legal house arrest in Dongshigu.