By Ian Simpson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Chinese political dissident Chen Guangcheng urged U. S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday to raise the continued harassment of his family with Chinese authorities.
Chen, who is blind, took refuge in the United States last year. He said authorities were still harassing and detaining family members in China, despite promises made to Washington that they would be left alone.
"We have not seen any obvious progress in this regard," Chen told reporters in Washington, emphasizing the need for Obama to defend U. S. principles of democracy and human rights worldwide.
"I would like to see him to talk (over) this case with the Chinese president, Mr. Xi Jinping," he said through an interpreter.
Chen said his eldest brother was beaten up in May by people he described as "government thugs." Security personnel threw rocks, bottles and dead chickens and ducks onto his brother's property, uprooted trees and dug up his 80-year-old mother's vegetable garden, he said.
Chen's nephew, Chen Kegui, was imprisoned after being convicted of using knives to fend off local officials who burst into his home. Chen Guangcheng said his nephew had been denied treatment for appendicitis.
Freedom Now, a Washington-based human rights group, filed a petition on Tuesday with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention seeking "urgent action" on Chen Kegui's case.
Chen, a legal advocate who campaigned against forced abortions, made international headlines last year when he escaped house arrest and found refuge at the U. S. embassy in Beijing.
His decision to take refuge there deeply embarrassed China and led to a diplomatic tussle before China allowed him to board a flight to the United States with his wife and child.
Chen had a fellowship at New York University, which the school terminated in June. Chen accused NYU of bowing to pressure from China, a charge the school denied.
Chen declined to divulge his plans, saying he would outline them at a news conference on October 2.
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy could not be reached for comment.
Uzra Zeya, the acting assistant secretary of state for human rights, said last month that the United States got few answers to questions about detained activists during human rights talks with China, and believed the situation was deteriorating.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Scott Malone and Gunna Dickson)