By Sui-Lee Wee
BEIJING (Reuters) - Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng said on Saturday the authorities' drive to manipulate his nephew's case would not succeed, but instead would increase public discontent over an episode that has renewed international focus on China's human rights and legal system.
Chen Guangcheng's nephew, Chen Kegui, was denied his family's choice of lawyers on Friday to defend a charge of "intentional homicide", the latest in a series of moves to deny him legal representation, and underscores the hardline stance taken against Chen Guangcheng's family.
Chen Guangcheng's escape from house arrest in northeastern China last month and subsequent refuge in the U.S. embassy caused huge embarrassment for China, and led to a serious diplomatic rift between the two superpowers while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was visiting Beijing.
Police told Chen Kegui's lawyers that he had been appointed two lawyers from the Yinan government-run legal aid centre, though officials at the centre said they have no knowledge of the case.
"(The government's) tricks to deceive the lawyers will not succeed," Chen Guangcheng told Reuters by telephone. "The times now are different. By doing this, they will only face more accusations, more suspicion."
"I think Chen Kegui's case has become a symbol of the measure of the fairness of China's laws. So what they're doing now is only moving stones to crush their feet."
Police in Yinan in Shandong, where Chen Kegui is held in a detention centre, were not immediately available for comment.
Chen Kegui, in his early 30s, could face the death penalty if found guilty of using knives to fend off local officials who burst into his home on April 27, the day after they discovered his blind uncle had escaped house arrest. Chen Kegui's lawyers said he did not kill anyone.
Chen Guangcheng, who is receiving treatment in a Beijing hospital while he prepares to go to the United States to study, said he informed U.S. embassy officials on Friday about the authorities' move to deny his nephew legal representation.
"This shows they (the authorities), as much as possible, want to manipulate the Chen Kegui matter behind the scenes and not let the outside world have any information," he said.
Chen Guangcheng, a 40-year-old legal activist, said the authorities' move to block access to Chen Kegui's family's choice of lawyers was the same tactic used against him.
Chen Guangcheng was sentenced in 2006 to more than four years in jail on charges - denied by his wife and lawyers - that he whipped up a crowd that disrupted traffic and damaged property.
(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)