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.


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

    Comment number 240.

    The party of the human rights, civil rights just threw Chen under the bus. Hilary should have negotiated for his family to be moved to the US. This is pitiful reflection on a party and administration that makes promises but never fulfills them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Chinese Stevie Wonder tribute act?

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    235.Olyec Oloyi

    Well if you read this story on Al Jazeera (the app is excellent btw) you will find it's very similar, bar an additional bit of info saying that China is looking for an apology. So clearly the Middle East is now 'backwards' as well as the whole of the west. What an ill-informed world we are; we bow down to your greater wisdom! :P

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    Some of us appear to be shocked at China's treatment of Mr Chen! But why should we? After all, China is a Communist DICTATORSHIP, for crying out loud! I take that back. China is actually a People's Republic Dictatorship, but still. Of course they'll threaten and torture activists who demand democracy now! Change will come to China, but gradually, with great sacrifice, and at her own pace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    “Washington Post?” Chen repeated. Chen said he was fine & was in car headed to the hospital, Chaoyang Hospital. He repeated the name slowly, 3 times. And that was it. Chen handed the phone back to Ambassador Locke, who said they were stuck in traffic, promised full briefing later. Thus was confirmed Chen was indeed under US diplomatic protection.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    @ 227 ImperialWonderBoy

    & @ 221+208 Xander

    People kept in dark for so long only know what they think is right and not what is fact. You are prisoners of information. BBC, CNN, CCTV ABC, CBC and countless Western propaganda news. These are your God's given truth. How backward you are is unbelievable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    Enemy of the state in a communist country. I could not think of anything worse. The commies are truly dreadful people, and will make mince meat of him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    How embarrassing that the US influence is now so weak they we can't protect 1 man and his family from a situation like this. That's the price of having a government owned by the corporations that constantly weaken the country in the name of their own bank accounts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    Obama is clearly seeking to appease the Chicoms. Another step in his quest to make the world safe for Marxists and terrorists.

    He is truly America's Neville Chamberlain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    @215.Pete Riley :
    I live in America. A few presidents have sent dissidents away."
    We don't have all the info yet,so I'd withold judgement on the present matter. But to your list I would add Elian Gonzales, whom we shipped back to Castro after his mom perished in her attempt to bring him to America & freedom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

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

    This for me is the most worrying part of the article. Mr Chen is a high-profile person which affords him at least some 'protection'. But what of those brave people involved in his escape?

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    I hope that assurance given by Chinese main land authority are true that activist won't be harmed. I hope he lives peacefully not like Libya under Muammar rule where people were jailed or beaten up or hanged if they went against the system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    Yet another suspicious event:
    Reporters trying to get any information from US Embassy on status of dissident Chen Guangcheng = wall of silence. Washington Post calls. Ambassador Locke states: “I’m here with Chen Guangcheng. Do you speak Chinese? Hold on.”
    “Hello, this is Chen Guangcheng.”
    There is something fishy here, but I don't know what?

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    @217. Typically when one makes an assertion (contrary to reports in the news) and want's it to be treated as fact and not lazy speculation, one cites his sources of information. You obviously cannot, so I'll treat your "facts" as such.

    How many languages I speak is utterly irrelevant to the conversation and a pathetic deflection on your part, but I speak Vietnamese, English, and Spanish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    @ 221 & 208

    "outrageous and laughable attack on the US to date. Maybe he could provide the reputable 'sources' where he gets these extraordinary 'facts'

    Are soliciting information that you can't get. Good try. Try again next year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    I don't support the Democrats here but I expected Hillary to be firm in this case and to stand for this man's freedom. I heard that it was the office of the VP Biden who ordered him out. That means it came from Obama. He never likes to get his hands dirty. Why are we afraid of China?

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    Is this what you are referring to?:

    Three-Fifths Compromise

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    18 Minutes ago

    In US & UK...really? Some might disagree. For some, they might never get to leave prison. There is no moral high ground in this, so don't even start.
    If this guy did the same things in the west, he'd be anti-social or even called a threat to national security. It's all just political labelling.
    Practice before you preach and start from where you live.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    My brother and I have been backpacking across China for 3 weeks each year since 2006. Having limited income stay in hostels, small hotels, and family inns and on occasion with a family. We have many Chinese friends. Many families have paid the fine, adjusted to family income, and have more than one child. Farm families allowed more as needed. One we know has 5.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    @217. In civilized discussion, it is traditional to be able to quote the source you are referencing, whatever the language. Is your secret source possible written in Mandarin?


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