A blind Chinese activist at the center of a diplomatic standoff between the United States and China said Friday his situation is “dangerous,” and that American officials have been blocked from seeing him for two days and friends who have tried to visit have been beaten up.
Chen Guangcheng sounded anxious as he spoke to The Associated Press by telephone from his hospital bed Friday,saying he was very worried about his safety. He is now seeking US help to leave the country after he fled house arrest and sought refuge at the US Embassy.
“I can only tell you one thing. My situation right now is very dangerous,” Chen said. “For two days,American officials who have wanted to come and see me have not been allowed in.”
Chen said he spoke to American officials by phone on Friday,twice,”but the calls keep getting cut off after two sentences.”
Chen also said friends who have tried to visit him have been beaten up. Chen did not provide examples,but Jiang Tianyong,an activist lawyer and friend of Chen’s,was taken away and beaten by state security agents when he tried to visit Chen at the hospital,Jiang’s wife said Friday. She said Jiang was beaten so badly he suffered hearing loss in one ear.
Security agents are also restricting the movements of Chen’s wife,he said,adding that Yuan had to seek permission to go out and when she was allowed to leave,she was followed by guards who recorded her outing on video cameras.
Calls to the news office of the Beijing public security bureau rang unanswered and officials did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment. A woman who answered the phone at the main office of Chaoyang Hospital,where Chen is being treated,refused to comment,saying she did not know about Chen’s situation.
Chen last week escaped his rural home where local officials had kept him under house arrest for years. He made it to the US Embassy,where he stayed for six days before the US and China reached a deal that would allow him to stay in China but in a new location,as he had requested. But hours after leaving the embassy Wednesday he said he and his family would not be safe unless they left the country.
A self-taught lawyer,the 40-year-old Chen became an international human rights figure and inspiration to many ordinary Chinese after running afoul of local government officials for exposing forced abortions and sterilizations carried out as part of China’s one-child policy. Until his escape last week,his nearly seven years in prison and abusive house arrest with his wife,6-year-old daughter and mother fueled outrage and added to his stature and in turn upped the stakes for Washington in helping him.
Chen said throughout his stay at the US Embassy that his desire was to remain in China with his family,and US diplomats said that was their goal in negotiations with Chinese officials.
After several days of talks,US officials said they extracted a guarantee that Chen would be relocated outside his home province to a university town where he could formally study law. US officials said they would periodically monitor his situation,though they did not specify how.
But hours after a gleeful Chen left the US compound,he changed his mind,driven in part by his wife’s tales of abuse and retribution in the days after Chen managed to escape from his rural farmhouse. Chen also said he felt abandoned by the US,finding no embassy staff at the hospital to assure his protection.