NEW YORK – A blind Chinese activist who arrived in New York over the weekend is "seriously troubled" about three people now at the mercy of Chinese authorities for helping him, his mentor said Monday.
"This is what's very much on Chen's mind: his inability to provide protection to people who were key in protecting him," New York University law professor Jerome Cohen, a mentor to Chen Guangcheng, told The Associated Press.
After Chen fled his village last month, his nephew was arrested and charged with intent to commit homicide — for stabbing and wounding attackers beating up the young man's parents, Cohen said.
Chen is asking Chinese authorities to release the nephew, Chen Kegui, who Cohen said is not allowed to speak to anyone while in police custody.
Lawyers from Beijing and elsewhere in China "have all tried to go to this boy's defense and they've all been stopped," Cohen said.
Kegui had "attempted to defend himself against thugs who invaded his house and beat up his parents," Cohen said, adding that the action was in retaliation for Chen's departure "without warning or permission."
"This is standard stuff in his village," Cohen said. "This is what Chen was protesting."
Cohen told the AP the dissident is also very concerned about what will happen to two others who helped him — a woman who drove his getaway van and a legal scholar who cared for Chen and who Cohen says is now under house arrest.
"I've known Chen a long time and I can see he's seriously troubled," Cohen said.
The woman, He Peihong, had never met Chen when she secretly drove to his village, picked him up in a van "and delivered him to Mr. Guo."
Yushan Guo, a Chinese academic, helped Chen when he got to Beijing. When Chen changed his mind about staying in China, Guo helped him put out a statement "that clarified what his thoughts were," Cohen said.
Guo was picked up by police, detained and interrogated, but was released.
"But now that Chen is away, they're going back and putting Guo under severe house arrest — home imprisonment," Cohen said.
He said U.S. authorities are aware of Chen's concern for people in his inner circle in China, and "we hope these cases can be solved in a fair and open manner."
He added that he and Chen hoped the U.S. government will be "able to do something."
The dissident and the New York law professor have been in touch for years, since they met when Chen came to the United States on a State Department program in 2003.
Cohen advised Chen while he was in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, where he was given sanctuary after his daring escape following seven years of prison and house arrest.
That triggered a diplomatic standoff over his fate. With Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Beijing for annual high-level discussions, officials struck a deal that let Chen walk free, only to see him have second thoughts. That forced new negotiations that led to an agreement to send him to the U.S. to study law at New York University.
Since his arrival from China on Saturday, Chen has stayed in his new Manhattan home with his wife and children.
As a fellow at New York University's law school, he was given "a very nice apartment" that is part of faculty housing, Cohen said.
Chen is getting medical treatment for his foot, having suffered three broken bones while fleeing from his village.
He has difficulty walking and is "a little jet-lagged," but is otherwise in "a good mood," Cohen said.