The Chinese activist whose six-day stay at the US embassy in Beijing sparked a diplomatic crisis last month has voiced concern about the fate of his nephew, who has been arrested on charges of attempted homicide.
Speaking to The Independent, Chen Guangcheng, the blind, barefoot lawyer whose escape from 19 months of extra-legal house arrest in Shandong province hit the headlines after he sought refuge in the American embassy, said his relative was being made a scapegoat in an act of revenge by authorities in his hometown.
Talks between US and Chinese officials eventually led to Mr Chen's exit from the embassy. Speaking on his mobile phone from the hospital in Beijing where he is recovering from a foot injury sustained during his escape, Mr Chen said he was very concerned for his nephew, Chen Kegui. "Shandong is mad right now, they are desperate and capable of anything, and this was revenge."
Mr Chen said his nephew had injured, but not killed, men who invaded his village home after discovering he had fled, adding that his relative acted in self-defence. "My nephew was hit by them, he had to defend himself, otherwise he could have died. It was a natural reaction and it is reasonable for normal people to defend themselves," he explained. "He was formally detained on suspicion of attempted murder days ago."
The self-taught lawyer came to national fame for campaigning for farmers and disabled citizens, and exposing a campaign of forced abortions in his hometown of Linyi, where officials were under pressure to meet family planning goals.
Mr Chen now plans to study in the US, where he has been offered a university fellowship under a deal between Beijing and Washington. His wife and children are with him in the hospital in Beijing, waiting to join him on his journey. "I think I'm optimistic about the future," he said.
Talking about his flight from house arrest, he added: "It was so difficult to escape, unbelievable. But I can express how I feel in one word. Bitter."