China activist Chen Guangcheng leaves US embassy

 
Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng (L) is seen in a wheelchair pushed by a nurse at the Chaoyang hospital in Beijing. Mr Chen is said to be happy with the arrangement

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Prominent Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng has left the US embassy in Beijing, a week after seeking shelter following his escape from house arrest.

Mr Chen's lawyer said the activist was "happy" after receiving "clear assurances" from Beijing that he would be free to stay in China and study.

However, some friends said Mr Chen was reluctant to stay in China and chose to do so after threats to his family.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Beijing for high-level talks.

Mr Chen's case has threatened to overshadow the talks, which are due to focus on issues like Syria and trade.

Mrs Clinton said the US would follow Mr Chen's fate in the long term.

Clinton message

Mr Chen was driven from the US embassy to a VIP section of Chaoyang Hospital for a check-up, before being united with his wife and two children.

He was accompanied to the hospital by US ambassador Gary Locke and other US officials.

Analysis

Chen Guangcheng has apparently been given assurances that he and his family will be moved to a "safe environment" inside China.

He told a friend that he believes he now has "true freedom" in his homeland.

But that is not assured.

China's ruling communist party does not tolerate much criticism. Activists and dissidents are routinely kept quiet.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for suggesting political change.

So if Mr Chen continues to speak out against injustices, it is difficult to see how he will be able to live free from interference.

The US is also in a tricky position if the deal backfires. It says it will continue to monitor the activist's status.

But it will have little power to force China to stick by its promises.

Some 20 police officers ordered journalists to leave and detained one protester carrying a banner reading "Free Guangcheng. Democracy for China", Agence France-Presse news agency reported.

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas met Mr Chen's wife at the hospital. She told him that she and their two children were well.

State news agency Xinhua said Mr Chen left the embassy "of his own volition".

In a statement, Mrs Clinton said: "I am pleased that we were able to facilitate Chen Guangcheng's stay and departure from the US embassy in a way that reflected his choices and our values.

"Mr Chen has a number of understandings with the Chinese government about his future, including the opportunity to pursue higher education in a safe environment," she said.

"Making these commitments a reality is the next crucial task. The United States government and the American people are committed to remaining engaged with Mr Chen and his family in the days, weeks, and years ahead."

After leaving the US embassy, the Chinese dissident had a telephone call with Mrs Clinton in which he reportedly said: "I want to kiss you."

Mr Chen's lawyer Li Jinsong said he had spoken to his client on the phone. He said Mr Chen was "very happy and wants to hug all his friends".

Mr Li said the dissident had told him he now had "true freedom", his rights were now protected by the national law and he was "a free citizen".

'Threats' to family

However, a close friend of Mr Chen told Associated Press that the dissident had chosen not to go to the US because he had been warned his wife would face recriminations if he did so.

Zeng Jinyan, herself an activist in Beijing, told the BBC she had spoken to Mr Chen and learned he had opted to stay in China to protect his family.

Chen Guangcheng

Chen Guangcheng (file photo 2006)
  • Born 12 Nov 1971
  • Nicknamed the 'Barefoot Lawyer'
  • Went blind as a child
  • Campaigned for women forced to have abortions or sterilisation under China's one child per family policy
  • Jailed for four years in 2006 for disrupting traffic and damaging property
  • Released from jail in 2010 placed under house arrest
  • Daughter barred from school during much of 2011, reports say
  • Escapes house arrest, April 2012

Ms Zeng said that Mr Chen "had no choice" because "thugs with sticks" were waiting for him and his family in their home village in Shandong province.

She said: "It's impossible, he couldn't do anything. He said, 'please help me'."

Bob Fu, of Texas-based rights advocacy group ChinaAid, said reliable sources had also told it that Mr Chen had left the embassy because serious threats to his immediate family members were made by the Chinese government.

"We are deeply concerned about this sad development if the report about Chen's involuntary departure is true," Mr Fu said.

These reports contradicted one US official, who said Mr Chen had "made clear from the beginning that he wanted to remain in China, and that he wanted his stay in the United States Embassy to be temporary".

The official, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the dissident had gone into the embassy on 26 April "requesting medical treatment from the embassy" - which had been given.

The official said China had "acknowledged that Mr Chen will be treated humanely while he remains in China.

"He has been reunited with his family - his wife and two children - at the hospital, and they remain together with him as a family. He had not seen his son in a few years, and his wife had not seen [the son] either, so this was a family reunification after a long and difficult separation."

Mrs Clinton said she was glad to have the chance to speak to Mr Chen and "to congratulate him on being reunited with his wife and children".

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin earlier said Mr Chen had been taken into the US embassy "via abnormal measures", the Chinese authorities were "strongly dissatisfied", and the US should apologise.

Mr Chen, who has been blind since childhood, has long been a high-profile figure and international rights groups have frequently expressed alarm at the treatment of him and his family.

He was placed under house arrest in 2010 after spending more than four years in jail for disrupting traffic and damaging property.

Mr Chen exposed how local authorities in Linyi, in Shandong, forced thousands of women to have abortions or be sterilised as part of China's one-child policy.

Mr Chen's colleagues said the escape from house arrest had taken months to plan, and was carried out with the help of a network of friends and activists.

He scaled the wall that the authorities had built around his house, and was driven hundreds of miles to Beijing, where activists say he stayed in safe houses before fleeing to the embassy.

Several people involved in Mr Chen's escape have been detained or have disappeared in recent days.

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 80.

    What a wealth of premature, uninformed comments about the US selling him out. The full details have not come out and are unlikely to, but lets all knock America, when China is now abducting the people who helped Chen Guangcheng get to the American embassy in the first place.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 79.

    Hi Brits,

    Can we please stop assuming the worst about what is going to happen to this man? All that has happened is that he was released from the US embassy. You people have already written him a death sentence simply to further criticize my country. Why not look at the positive in this, that the US was compassionate enough to shelter this man for whatever amount of time.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 78.

    Actually, look at the pop stats for most of Europe. The birth rates are in the negative, and that's of our own free will. FREE will.

    If the west is fighting for freedom, we can't cherry pick what parts of it we want to advocate for.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 77.

    Happy and free??

    Or is this the lawless and brutal China regime just pretending. His nephew was afraid of being picked off by a regime sniper, killing him through his house window. There is no proper rule of law in China just the orders of the CP regime.

    British businessman was recently murdered in his hotel by top officials wife. It seems he was forced to drink poison while she watched

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 76.

    60.valfarhad

    the China one child policy is the one thing that will ruin Chinas prospects in the future.
    So good for those who fear China’s rise.
    1.7 children per family is the current average.
    the damage is that men now far outnumber women, as girls are thrown away like rubbish and an aging population that will far outnumber the next generation and become a huge burden.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 75.

    "China activist Chen Guangcheng leaves US embassy"

    ===

    I know Hilary Clinton isn't everyone's cup of tea, but he could have met her, made smalltalk, then made his excuses.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 74.

    I see the USA, defender of human rights whe it suits them, has decided to 'kow tow' to the new global superpower. Very worrying.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 73.

    68.RossCaldwell
    I think that if what you call "thought policing" makes you reflect on what you write and helps you develop it positively, then it is a good thing and helps enable a serious debate.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 72.

    I followed this story back in 2006 when Chen was first arrested. I thought then(naively) that the Chinese Govt. would embrace someone for attempting to protect women and exposing low level corruption in the Communist party. I was wrong then and it doesn't seem they will ever let him be.Party members are protected no matter what. I wonder if he left the U.S. embassy under threats to his family?

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 71.

    Before blaming China for manufacturing cheap goods, think who moved factories there and closed production here, think our own greed of getting cheap goods so that we can have as many children as we want. Thanks to the consumerism we are all in the chain so no one has the right to point fingers.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 70.

    As an ethnically Chinese person, I do care about the democracy development in China even though I've never actually lived there for a long period of time. I always look up to the so many civil rights and political dissidents in China; regardless whether their achievement were as great as the Western media often like to portray them as such because it takes lots of courage to do what they do.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 69.

    Obama is done, he gave in to China's hand.

    Looking like an one team leader.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 68.

    @64 (kingnani)

    It's already here; some is plain old politeness, some is new PC self-censorship. The fact that I have to go through a dozen permutations of ways to say what I want to say, before saying it, and then recheck it for possibly, even remotely, offensive things, and then wait for it to be posted, is proof enough of the level of thought policing we already have.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 67.

    I belive what China is doing to its citizens is as worse as what USA do to captured common citizens in Afghan, iran and other parts of the world.

  • Comment number 66.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 65.

    Is it bad of me to say that I really don't care?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 64.

    Horrible how the Chinese are being repressed by their government. With our current coalition slowly eroding away our civil liberties, we are slowly heading down this path as well, all in the name of 'the fight against terror'. Before long no one will be able to post comments here anymore, or even think freely. 1984 anyone?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 63.

    Excuse Me have you ALL missed the PLOT? FORCED abortions? do you know what this does to a womans body? Population contro lsure, but why not make contraception the "if you dont use punishable by jail time" scenario that the Chinese so like to throw around? Im sure Chinese women would much sooner opt for this than face mutilation or lenghty jail stints.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 62.

    I wish other over populated countries in Africa, South America and Asia(India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia) would adopt the Cinese type of population control. It is the only way to save the planet.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 61.

    Well said...
    People ought to think about what happens when China is over-populated and (even more) hungry for resources.
    More babies = more resources = war
    Who's actually murdering others?

    Before people get rich on how China runs, the west, all of us, ought to live up to the human right beacon the politicians/media pretend to be.
    (G Bay, sending prisoners to ME..Really?)

 

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