Chen leaves China, arrives in U.S.

May 19, 2012 at 11:27 PM
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BEIJING, May 19 (UPI) -- Blind activist Chen Guangcheng left China on a commercial flight and arrived in the United States Saturday with his wife and two children.

Chen, who escaped house arrest in April and took refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing before being hospitalized, left the Chinese capital on a United Airlines flight headed to Newark, N.J., The New York Times reported.

Chen is to study law at New York University, where he will attend law tutorials taught in Chinese and will serve as a guest speaker at the university's U.S.-Asia Law Institute, The Washington Post reported.

In a telephone interview with the Post before leaving Beijing, Chen said he regretted being unable to visit with his mother and brother before leaving China. Chen earlier had said he was glad to be leaving China but worried about relatives remaining in the country.

Chen's nephew, Chen Kegui, is in prison in Shandong on charges of intent to murder. He allegedly used a kitchen knife against intruders at his home April 26 after word got around his uncle had escaped his confinement, the Post said. It turned out the intruders were working for the government.

Frank Jannuzi, head of the Washington office of Amnesty International, told the Post in an e-mail Chen's "escape should not distract the international community from the task at hand: convincing China's leaders to respect the human rights of all it citizens."

"He's happy to finally have a rest after seven years of suffering but he's also worried they will suffer some retribution," said Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid, a Christian advocacy group based in Texas.

Fu said Chen's family did not know they were leaving or where they were heading until officials notified them to pack their belongings.

The family was transported from Chaoyang Hospital, where Chen had sought treatment for a foot he broke during his escape, directly to Beijing International Airport, the Times said.

Chen was placed under house arrest in 2010 after spending four years in jail for protesting forced sterilizations and abortions in China.

He escaped April 22 and took refuge at the U.S. Embassy before being hospitalized.

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