Underground Christians in China were among those who helped a blind Chinese human rights activist, Chen Guangcheng, escape after four years in prison and 18 months under house arrest.
It was Christian activist Bob Fu who reached Chen by cellphone while at a Capitol Hill hearing and let him make his appeal for passage to the U.S. directly to lawmakers, Reuters reported Friday, about a week after Chen's dramatic escape came to light.
"Chen Guangcheng isn't a Christian, but we Chinese Christians pray for all those in pursuit of the truth," Zhang Mingxuan, a house church pastor from central province of Henan, stated, according to the news agency. Activist and lawyer Chen's case, the pastor added, "has been a blow for China's legal and government officials."
The Christians and other activists who helped Chen escape to the U.S. embassy in Beijing are likely to face pressure from Chinese authorities. "But I'm not afraid," the pastor said. "I don't hate the government. I pray for the government."
Meanwhile, Chen left the embassy to receive medical care in a hospital in Beijing Wednesday, shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in the Chinese capital city for a two-day visit for strategic talks. "Chen Guangcheng has arrived at a medical facility in Beijing where he will receive medical treatment and be reunited with his family," a senior U.S. official said, according to The Associated Press.
Chen, who escaped from his heavily guarded house in Linyi in eastern Shandong province, appeared in a video he posted on the Internet last week, saying, "I finally escaped. All the stories about the brutal treatment I have received from the authorities, I can personally testify they are all true."
The lawyer exposed forced sterilization and other abuses by Chinese authorities. Chinese law requires families to have only one child. While rich Chinese can afford to pay fines for having more children, poor families are often treated brutally. Chinese authorities allegedly impose harsh punishments on the families of women who run away to save their babies.
Chen was arrested in 2007 on charges of disruption of traffic, vandalism and anti-government activities. He was released after four years and three months, and subsequently put under house arrest.
"They broke into my house, and more than a dozen men assaulted my wife," Chen said in his video message. "They pinned her down and wrapped her in a blanket, beating and kicking her for hours. They similarly violently assaulted me."
He Peirong, a longtime campaigner for Chen's release, met him in a secret location and drove him to Beijing. She was supposedly arrested soon thereafter.
"Although I'm free, my worries are only deepening," Chen said in the video. "My wife, mother and children are still in their evil hands. They have been persecuting my family for a long time, and my escape will only prompt more revenge."
It is feared that Chinese authorities might react and crack down on house churches. It is estimated that between 30 and 60 million Chinese are part of the house church movement, an alternative to the government's requirement for all churches to register with authorities.