Chinese Activist Leaves China

Posted May 19th, 2012 at 7:00 am (UTC-5)
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Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng and his family have left China on a flight headed for the United States.

Chen and his wife, plus their two children, obtained their passports at Beijing's international airport, shortly before boarding a United Airlines flight. The flight is due to land at Newark airport, just outside New York City, Saturday evening local time.

Earlier, the blind activist told VOA he was not sure if he and his family would be flying to the U.S. because they did not have passports, even though they had filled out passport and visa applications earlier in the week.

Chen fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing last month after escaping house arrest in Shangdong province. He left the embassy and entered a hospital for treatment, after agreeing to a deal reached by U.S. and Chinese authorities that would allow him to stay in a “safe” place in China and study law.

But he changed his mind hours after leaving U.S. protection, saying his family had been threatened.

Chen is a self-taught 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 was then subjected to an abusive house arrest after his release from prison in 2010.