China's 'lawlessness' threatens stability

2012-05-30 14:01

New York - Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng has accused Beijing of failing to uphold its own laws, saying its abusive treatment of dissidents threatens the country's political stability.

"The fundamental question the Chinese government must face is lawlessness. China does not lack laws, but the rule of law," Chen wrote in an op-ed published on Tuesday on the New York Times website.

"As a result, those who handled my case were able to openly flout the nation's laws in many ways for many years."

Chen's daring escape from house arrest and sheltering in the US embassy in Beijing earlier this month sparked a major diplomatic row and highlighted China's long-criticised human rights record.

The activist was eventually allowed to move to the United States to pursue studies at New York University, but he insisted in his article that he had not sought political asylum.

The self-taught lawyer won praise for investigating forced sterilisations and late-term abortions under China's one-child policy, but was jailed for more than four years and placed under house arrest upon his release in 2010.

Attempted homicide

In the op-ed, the 40-year-old Chen said China's written laws protect basic rights but were rarely upheld in practice, saying government thugs had attacked his family in the weeks since his escape.

"After the local police discovered my escape from my village in April, a furious pack of thugs - not one in uniform, bearing no search or arrest warrants and refusing to identify themselves - scaled the wall of my brother Guangfu's farmhouse in the dead of night, smashed through the doors and brutally assaulted my brother," Chen wrote.

"After detaining him, the gang returned twice more, severely beating my sister-in-law and nephew with pickaxe handles. At that point, [his nephew Chen] Kegui tried to fend them off by seizing a kitchen knife and stabbing, but not killing, three of the attackers."

Chen Kegui, aged 32, has been detained and charged with attempted homicide.

"No one has been able to reach him, and he has most likely been tortured even more severely than his father was," Chen wrote, adding that defence lawyers who had tried to help his family were also in danger.

"This issue of lawlessness may be the greatest challenge facing the new leaders who will be installed this autumn by the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party," he wrote.

"Indeed, China's political stability may depend on its ability to develop the rule of law in a system where it barely exists. China stands at a critical juncture. I hope its new leaders will use this opportunity wisely."

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