Xinhua: Blind Activist Leaves Embassy in Beijing

Posted May 2nd, 2012 at 4:25 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Chinese state media say a blind dissident who escaped house arrest and went to the U.S. embassy in Beijing has left the facility “of his own volition.”

The Xinhua news agency said that Chen Guangcheng left the embassy Wednesday after being there for six days.

Unnamed U.S. officials said Chen has been taken to a medical facility where he will be reunited with his family. There were no other details about his whereabouts or condition.

China's foreign ministry on Wednesday demanded that the U.S. apologize for taking in Chen. It also said Washington should punish those responsible and give assurances that no other dissidents will be given refuge.

The case appeared likely to overshadow high-level annual talks between Chinese and U.S. officials, who had both largely been silent on the issue before Wednesday.

Before arriving in China Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she would not address Chen's case, but promised that human rights would be discussed in the talks, which formally begin Thursday.

China broke its silence on the issue Wednesday with an editorial in the Communist Party-affiliated Global Times newspaper. The paper downplayed the Chen incident, saying it will not affect China-U.S. relations.

Clinton's trip to Beijing was planned long before the Chen case became public. She is joined by U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who is along to talk about progress between China and the United States on trade and currency issues.

Chen is a lawyer and human rights activist who has been blind since childhood. He was given a four-year prison sentence in 2006 for exposing abuses under China's forced abortion policy aimed at population control. He had been under house arrest since 2010, before escaping on April 22.

He posted an Internet video last week saying he, his wife, and young daughter were abused during his house arrest. He also called on Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to investigate human rights abuses in China.

Bob Fu, the head of the U.S.-based ChinaAid organization that reportedly has close contact with Chen, says Washington and Beijing officials are working on a deal to allow Chen to go to the United States with his family.