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
    0

    Comment number 200.

    I think that,in the light of current events,it would be appropriate to abstain from Chinese food for a while.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 199.

    There is something very fishy about all of this... the way the whole situation ended doesn't quite add up right.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 198.

    US is at least afraid of China. Big boys only bully the small ones, so also US.
    EU who has no foreign policy of own except raising hands for US will keep quiet, different policy from Ukraine.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 197.

    @Under-Used
    I consider anyone damaging public and private properties as terrorists. There is no way to describe them. Chen was jailed after a fair and open trial that was reported. Do you think the English Riots last summer and subsequent jailing of people in English courts who took a bottle of water while passing a damaged shop or simply posted on Facebook supporting the riots was fair?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 196.

    192: It does report like that in the Chinese media..... Well I don't know anymore... I thought the US will protect him and his family; maybe not? But Chen's story is so well known around the world now, so is it now China can just do whatever it wants and other countries will just let it? A country like China should not be tolerated!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 195.

    @139.

    Rob ,
    what decision would of G Washington made then??
    After all this is the man who with his cronies, put in the constitution that African Americans were deemed 3/5ths of a man and so not protected by the inalienable rights of man set out in the constitution

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 194.

    @ 180 ImperialWonderBoy

    "Mr. Chen came to us, we didn't snatch him from the street."

    You are full of nonsense and need to read and know other sources beyond this article. Fact is US Embassy in Beijing cordinated the kidnapping of Chen from his House Arrest location and brought him to US Embassy. The Chinese authority is aware of the US involvement. US offer asylum in the US for Chen.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 193.

    The Chinese CP watched the effect of glasnost and perestroika in the USSR and are determined that the introduction of economic liberalisation(capitalism) would not lead the the end of the Party's political dominance.
    You can start a business, grow rich but don't rock the boat. The Party remains in charge.
    It's Animal Farm made real.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 192.

    Chen didn't walk out of the embassy on his own accord. He has been sold out by the US government. The governments took his wife and 2 kids to Beijing, blackmailing him if he didn't walk out of the embassy, they would be sent back to their home in Shangdong, where thugs are waiting for them with logs in hand. Shamed Clinton speech. Chen phoned Hu Jia's wife for help to tell the truth to the world.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 191.

    Behaviours, the chinese government, get up to are accepted by the west yet if these behaviors are observed in other countries we are outraged. Examples include trial without jury, execution without jury (bill sent to family), forced abortions, minority persecution, obvious government corruption, imprisonment for artistic expression...the list goes on.....and why is it tolerated...Money and fear...

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 190.

    Has anyone ever considered Chen's unofficial "house arrest" by local authority was for his own safety? Some of the people he upset in high places want him gone and I'm sure the reason why he is still alive and kicking today is due to no small part by the authority who has protected him.

  • Comment number 189.

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

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 188.

    @ 182 hizento

    When did disrupting traffic and damaging private property become terrorist acts? He may well have been jailed in a (so called) western democracy but only after a fair trial with representation.

    China has to change or it will suffer greater and greater inner turmoil. The Chinese government understands this but like any base of power change is regarded as detrimental to power.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 187.

    This is the part of the story we need to remember. Our American Embassies in China are guarded by CHINESE guards. For this reason, Chen was not able to freely walk into our embassy. North Koreans who are starving seek assylum in our US Embassies in China but cannot find it because the US has allowed our embassies to be guarded by Chinese soldiers. The USA must change this policy!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 186.

    @182. In the US or the UK if someone has served their jail time they are allowed to get on with their lives in peace once freed. Chen has been under house arrest for the last 2 years. He served his prison sentence and was freed, so why won't they leave him alone?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 185.

    Re111

    Allen,
    I agree, I don't know why Americans call the Indians "native Americans"
    Aboriginals would be a better term, which is used by Canada.
    My people might of caused some wars in biblical times, but mostly since then it’s been persecution and a holocaust against us.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 184.

    176: if to be completely frank, China is being ruled by a huge mob. I'm not the first person who say it. China is in need an urgent political reform within the country, but it's all power struggles amongst different groups of powers within the CCP.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 183.

    Thought so ....

    When it comes to individual freedoms or money/trade we ALL KNOW what side the USA will side with

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 182.

    Chen was not jailed because of helping people fight court cases. He was jailed for damaging properties and disrupting traffic. Just like animal rights activists the cause might be noble but they commit terrorism to draw attention. Two wrongs don't make a right and in Chen's case he broke the law and would have been jailed if he was in the USA, UK, or any other so call western democracies.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 181.

    You are lying Michael! There are numerous news websites and state owned newspapers openly criticising the Government and the Communist Party everyday! You can simply visit these websites or just do a search in Chinese in baidu.com (the Chinese google). Please stop brain washing your viewers!

 

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