Chinese Rights Activist Escapes House Arrest

Posted April 27th, 2012 at 1:00 pm (UTC-5)
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One of China's best-known human rights activists has escaped from house arrest, setting off a police search for him, his family and those who helped him.

Blind dissident lawyer Chen Guangchen fled his closely guarded home on Sunday in a village in the eastern province of Shandong, although authorities did not realize he was missing until Thursday.

A relative of Chen told VOA that many police officers, some armed, have converged on his home in Dongshigu.

Chen's whereabouts are unknown. There is speculation he may have sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, but officials there have declined all requests for comment or further information.

Bob Fu, head of the U.S.-based rights organization ChinaAid, said Chen is safe and at a location far from his home village.

In a video posted online Friday, Chen detailed the abuses he and his family have allegedly suffered in his year-and-a-half under house arrest. He also issued demands to Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, including a call for all human rights offenders to be severely punished.

Chen, who campaigned against forced abortions under China's “one child” policy, had been held under house arrest since he was released from a four-year prison sentence in September 2010.

Fu said Chen was able to leave his home on April 22 and his friends escorted him to a safe location. Fu said Chen's wife, daughter and mother are still at the family's home, which was surrounded by local authorities after they found him gone on Thursday.