US Expresses Concern About Blind Chinese Activist

Posted April 28th, 2012 at 2:20 am (UTC-5)
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The United States has expressed concern about the fate of blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, but refused all comment on his whereabouts amid reports he fled to the U.S. embassy in Beijing.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland declined to make any comment to reporters' questions Friday about Chen's whereabouts. But she said the U.S. had earlier expressed concern about the lawyer and activist who was arrested after documenting abuses in China's policy on restricting the size of most families.

Chen disappeared Sunday from a village in the eastern province of Shandong, although authorities did not realize he was missing until Thursday. It is not clear where he went, but his friend and fellow activist Hu Jia said Friday he believed that Chen was admitted into the embassy.

U.S. diplomats there declined any comment and a spokesman for the Chinese government said he knew nothing of the reports.

The development comes days before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are due to visit Beijing for talks.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said at a briefing in Beijing Saturday on the upcoming talks that he had no information on Chen's case.

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 Washington, U.S. Republican Congressman Chris Smith told VOA he is relieved that Chen has escaped.

“I am relieved to hear the reported news of human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng's escape from extended illegal home confinement and hope that he is safe as his supporters have indicated.”

But Smith expressed concern about the safety of Chen's family and supporters in China.

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

Human rights groups have called on China to protect the safety of Chen's family.

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 called on Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to investigate human rights abuses in China.

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.