Blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng, who has been deprived of his freedom for years for campaigning against forced abortions, has fled house arrest. There is speculation he has taken refuge at the US embassy in Beijing.
In a video posted online yesterday, Chen confirmed his escape and appealed to Premier Wen Jiabao for the protection of his family. “Dear Premier Wen, it wasn’t easy but I finally got out,” Chen said from an unknown location, in front of a window with curtains closed.
Activists said Chen was dramatically spirited away from his home in Shandong by supporters who picked him up on Sunday. “He is 100 per cent safe in Beijing,” said Bob Fu, president of China Aid, a Christian rights organisation which has been in touch with Chen’s family.
The US embassy, when questioned in an e-mail, did not deny Chen was in the embassy – it declined to comment, a response that some believed lent credence to reports that he was there.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman declined to respond to reporters’ questions on Chen.
Hu Jia, one of the mainland’s most high-profile dissidents, wrote about Chen on Twitter late yesterday.
“I drove by the east gate of the US embassy this afternoon, and I couldn’t help but wave my hand towards the embassy … Guangcheng … you are finally safe.”
The New York Times cited a source in the Ministry of State Security as saying Chen was believed to be at the embassy.
Chen, a self-taught legal advocate who exposed forced abortions and sterilisations in Shandong, had been confined to his village home in Linyi with his family since September 2010, when he was released from jail. Chen, his wife, Yuan Weijing, and their young daughter have been kept incommunicado since then.
His son lives separately with his sister-in-law.
Hated by local officials for exposing abuses of population control policies, Chen was jailed for more than four years on what his supporters say were trumped-up charges of “organising a crowd to disrupt traffic” and “damaging public property”.
Supporters of Chen have said he and his wife were severely beaten by local officials on at least two occasions last year. Chen confirmed the attacks, adding that they were denied medical treatment.
He also said hundreds of people had at times been hired to stand guard outside and around his house.
In the video, Chen asked Wen to investigate the violent attacks and punish the officials responsible and sought the protection of his wife and family. “Although I am free, my mother, wife and children are still in their evil hands,” he said. “They will take violent revenge on them because I have left.”
The situation of Chen Guangcheng’s wife and children was unknown. Chen’s brother, Chen Guangfu, and nephew, Chen Kegui, were detained by police after his nephew used a knife to attack officials who broke into their home early yesterday by climbing over the back wall, activists said.
He Peirong, a supporter who reportedly helped Chen escape, was taken away by police yesterday, said Fu, who spoke to her before police knocked on the door at her Nanjing home. Her cellphone remained switched off yesterday.
Guo Yushan, another who helped Chen escape, was under police surveillance. Guo said Chen did not want to leave China.
South China Morning Post
- Blind China activist makes mystery “escape” (chinadailymail.com)
- Chinese police crack down on family of blind dissident Chen Guangcheng (guardian.co.uk)
- Chen Guangcheng’s escape sparks China round-up – BBC News (bbc.co.uk)