Blind Chinese activist flees house arrest

April 27, 2012 at 3:50 PM
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BEIJING, April 27 (UPI) -- A Chinese dissident who escaped house arrested Friday posted a YouTube video condemning human-rights abuses committed against him and his family.

Chen Guangcheng, who is blind, fled to Beijing Sunday after outsmarting his guards in Dongshigu, a village in Shandong province, friend and fellow human-rights activist He Peirong told CNN.

In the video, Chen addressed Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, telling how guards broke into his house and assaulted his wife.

"They pinned her down and wrapped her in a comforter, beating and kicking her for hours. They also similarly violently assaulted me," Chen said, asking Wen to investigate his case.

CNN reported Chen's flight has angered authorities, prompting reprisals against members of his family.

Chen's escape during a rescue operation conducted by supporters was apparently timed to occur as U.S.-Chinese discussions on human rights took place this week in Beijing and as preparations were under way for the visit next week to China by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Some reports indicated Chen was seeking political asylum and may have tried to go to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. One activist said on Twitter Chen was at the embassy, but other activists said that wasn't the case.

"The situation is very dangerous," Yang Jianli, a rights activist in Washington, told the Times. "We don't know if Chen is in a safe place or has been perhaps arrested by authorities."

He Peirong, a friend of Chen, said the activist was driven from Dongshigu village in Shandong province to Beijing Sunday, CNN reported.

He said Chen prepared for his escape for months by lying still on his bed for long periods of time so guards wouldn't be suspicious if they didn't see movement for a while. He said Chen contacted her and a few other activists once he escaped the house.

"We learned that he had escaped and needed our help," she said in an interview via Skype from Nanjing.

The whereabouts of the blind activist's wife, mother and daughter, who remained behind, were not known Friday.

Reports indicated at least two people involved in Chen's rescue have been arrested, as were several family members involved in a fight with local authorities after Chen's escape.

Chen, who has been blind since childhood, escaped Sunday from the house where he was held for the past 18 months. Details of the operation haven't been released.

Chen, 40, a lawyer, spent four years in prison after revealing the practice of forced sterilizations and other abuses by Chinese family-planning authorities. After his release in September 2010, he and his wife were placed under local house arrest and reportedly beaten, the Times said.

Supporters worldwide have participated in appeals on Chen's behalf, many displaying photos of themselves wearing sunglasses as a tribute to him. In December, Oscar-winning actor Christian Bale tried to visit Chen but was roughed up by plainclothes security before being turned away.

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