Blind Chinese lawyer escapes house arrest
BEIJING: Blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng, one of China’s best-known rights activists, has made a daring escape from house arrest and recorded a video detailing the abuses he and his family have suffered.
Chen, 40, fled his closely guarded home in the eastern province of Shandong on Sunday, escaping from under the noses of dozens of plain-clothes security officers with the help of his supporters. In an audacious video address to China’s Premier Wen Jiabao posted online on Friday, he said he had suffered repeated beatings, and expressed serious concerns for his wife and young son, still being held at the family’s home.
Visibly emotional, Chen, who has been blind since childhood, described how on one occasion dozens of men had barged into his house, pushed his wife to the ground and punched and kicked her for several hours. “Even though I am now free, I am still concerned because my family - my mother, my wife, my child are still in their hands,” he said, calling on Wen to punish several named officials he said had made his family’s life a misery.
Chen’s exact whereabouts are unknown. There are rumours he may have sought refuge at the US embassy, which would be a major embarrassment for China ahead of a once-a-decade leadership handover later this year. No one at the US embassy in Beijing returned calls for comment on whether Chen, who won worldwide acclaim for his campaigning on forced sterilisations and late-term abortions under China’s ‘one-child’ policy, had sought refuge there. But Bob Fu, a US-based activist in close contact with Chen, told the lawyer was “now in a 100 percent safe location in Beijing”.
Chen’s escape came ahead of a visit to China next week by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has repeatedly called for him to be released from house arrest. Wang Lijun, former right-hand man of Chinese leader Bo Xilai, reportedly went to the US consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu in February to seek US asylum, but was turned down.
Chen had been under house arrest along with his wife and young son since he was released from a four-year jail sentence in September 2010 and guarded round the clock. afp