Chen, a campaigning lawyer who exposed forced abortions andsterilisations under the "one-child" policy, unleashed a diplomaticfurore when he sought sanctuary at the embassy where he spent sixdays. US officials said Chen, 40, left Wednesday after Beijing pledged heand his family would be treated "humanely", but since then he hassaid he feels abandoned and fears retribution by Chineseauthorities. "I am in great danger... I hope the government will respect thecommitments to guarantee my rights agreed to between China and theUnited States," he told AFP by telephone from the hospital where heis being treated. China has reacted angrily to the affair, demanding a US apology for"interference" in its affairs. |
But in an announcement that openedthe door to a face-saving resolution, the foreign ministry saidChen could apply to leave. "If he wants to study abroad, as a Chinese citizen, he can applythrough normal channels in accordance with the law, just like anyother Chinese citizen," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin saidin a statement. The comment came as the United States held new talks with Chen totry to establish his next move, according to a US official whospoke on condition of anonymity. A US embassy staffer spoke to the activist by telephone at theBeijing hospital where he is being treated for injuries sustainedin his escape, and also met his wife, the official said.
The United States has scrambled to contain the growing diplomaticrow over Chen which erupted days before US Secretary of StateHillary Clinton arrived in Beijing on previously scheduled talks. In extraordinary scenes on Capitol Hill, Chen phoned in to acongressional hearing Thursday to ask lawmakers for help to travelto the United States and appealed directly to Clinton. "I really am fearing for my family members' lives," he said,speaking through a mobile phone held up to the hearing as a friendtranslated from Mandarin into English. "The thing I'm most concerned with now is the safety of my motherand my brother," he said. "I really want to know what's going onwith them." "I want to meet with Secretary Clinton.
I hope I can get more helpfrom her," Chen told Representative Chris Smith, who chaired thehearing on Chen's case, as stunned witnesses and reporters lookedon. Rights activists said Friday that Chinese police have detainedChen's supporters at the hospital where he is being treated, andhave beaten two of them. Details of how Chen gained entry to the embassy and thecircumstances of his departure have been unclear, but The New YorkTimes gave a gripping account of a flight to safety that included acar chase through Beijing. It said that Chen, who after hauling himself over walls to escapehouse arrest, made his way to the capital where friends hadarranged a rendezvous with US officials who had agreed to give himsanctuary.
With Chinese security closing on on them, Chen was pulled into theAmerican vehicle which threw off the tail and headed for theembassy where the activist was secreted in a US Marine dormitory. Chen, a self-taught lawyer, has since said he felt pressured toleave the embassy, fearing for the safety of his family whosuffered repeated abuses at the hands of local officials in theirhometown in eastern Shandong province. US State Department officials have been adamant that Chen neverrequested asylum and strongly denied allegations that he waspressured to leave. Chen told lawmakers he wanted his "freedom of travel guaranteed,"because he wanted to "come to the United States for some time ofrest," according to friend and supporter Bob Fu, who wastranslating the call. Chen's flight came despite round-the-clock surveillance at hishouse in Shandong, where the activist has alleged that he and hisfamily suffered severe beatings after he completed a four-year jailterm in 2010.
At Thursday's opening of the two-day Strategic and EconomicDialogue in Beijing, Clinton told her Chinese hosts that theycannot deny the "aspirations" of their citizens "for dignity andthe rule of law." Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao - considered a reformist in the opaquecommunist system - on Friday asked Clinton to respect differencesbetween the two countries. But state media took an angrier line, blasting US diplomats forsheltering Chen who they condemned as a "pawn" of the UnitedStates.
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