Having dramatically escaped after four years in prison and 18 months under house arrest, blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng appeared in an online video and told his tragic story. Reports suggest he is under U.S. protection in Beijing.
"I finally escaped. All the stories about the brutal treatment I have received from the authorities, I can personally testify they are all true," activist and lawyer Chen, who exposed forced sterilization and other abuses by Chinese authorities, says on the video he posted online.
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, who escaped from his guarded home in Linyi in eastern Shandong province just days ago, exposed that.
"They broke into my house, and more than a dozen men assaulted my wife," adds Chen, who still appears fearful and is apparently ill due to denial of medical treatment by authorities. "They pinned her down and wrapped her in a blanket, beating and kicking her for hours. They similarly violently assaulted me."
Reuters quoted Texas-based ChinaAid as saying that according to "a source close to the Chen Guangcheng situation" he was under U.S. protection and high level talks between U.S. and Chinese officials were in progress. "Because of Chen's wide popularity, the Obama Administration must stand firmly with him or risk losing credibility as a defender of freedom and the rule of law," the group's president, Bob Fu, stated.
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.
He Peirong, a longtime campaigner for Chen's release, met him in a secret location and drove him to Beijing. "We learned that he had escaped and needed our help," He Peirong told CNN in a Skype interview. "That's why we went to pick him up and drove him to Beijing and kept him in a safe place."
Hours after the interview, He Peirong vanished, CNN said. Activists believe she has been arrested. Chen's family was also being held.
"Although I'm free, my worries are only deepening," Chen says 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." He then calls on Chinese premier Wen Jiabao to prosecute the security team. "If you continue to ignore me, what would the public think?"
"Everyone knew about the suffering of Chen Guangcheng and his family but nobody dared raised his head over this and ignored it," Reuters quoted Pu Zhiqiang, a Beijing lawyer and rights advocate, as saying. "Chen Guangcheng has been the most typical victim of this lawless, boundless exercise of power. But the day has finally come when he has escaped from it."
Neither U.S. nor Chinese authorities were willing to comment on the reports at press time. The U.S. protection to Chen could affect Washington's relations with Beijing and hurt China at a time when it is preparing for a leadership transition.