x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Blind Chinese activist who escaped house arrest under US protection

Overseas activists say Chen Guangcheng fled house arrest in his Chinese village and is under protection of American officials.

Chen Guangcheng, a blind legal activist, left, with Hu Jia, one of China's most prominent dissidents. Mr Chen is under US protection in Beijing after fleeing from house arrest.
Chen Guangcheng, a blind legal activist, left, with Hu Jia, one of China's most prominent dissidents. Mr Chen is under US protection in Beijing after fleeing from house arrest.

BEIJING // A blind legal activist who fled house arrest in his Chinese village is under the protection of American officials, overseas activists said yesterday.

Chen Guangcheng, who has exposed forced abortions and sterilisations in villages as a result of China's one-child policy, escaped a week ago from his guarded home in Shandong province in eastern China. Chinese-based activists say he was driven away by supporters and then handed over to others who brought him to Beijing.

The US and Chinese governments have not confirmed reports that he sought protection at the US Embassy in Beijing.

A Texas-based activist group that has been active in promoting Chen's case said that China and the US were in high-level communication about the 40-year-old.

"Chen is under US protection and high-level talks are currently under way between US and Chinese officials regarding Chen's status," said a statement from the ChinaAid Association. It cited a source close to the situation.

Mr Chen's whereabouts could be a major political complication for the two countries, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton due to arrive in China for the latest round of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue that begins on Thursday.

After fleeing, Mr Chen recorded a video as a direct address to Premier Wen Jiabao, condemning the treatment of him and his family and accusing local Communist Party officials by name.

Mr Chen's escape, if ultimately successful, would boost a beleaguered civil rights community, which has faced rising arrests and other harassment over the past year.

If Mr Chen is in the US Embassy or with US officials at another location, it is not known how he would be able to leave or where he could go without Chinese permission.