China activist seeks US help to flee homeland

Chen Gunagcheng quoted as fearing for his and family's safety and seeking flight from China on Hillary Clinton's plane.

    A blind Chinese activist who sought sanctuary at the US embassy in Beijing after fleeing from house arrest has said he wants to leave his homeland, according to media reports.

    Chen Guangchen made a dramatic telephone appeal to come to the United States in a call broadcast live to a US congressional hearing on Thursday.

    "I want to come to the US to rest. I have not had a rest in 10 years," Chen said, his comments made on a mobile telephone that was held up to a microphone at the hearing.

    "I'm concerned most right now with the safety of my mother and brothers. I really want to know what's going on with them."

    News agencies citing the Daily Beast website said Chen wanted to leave China on the plane of Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, who is in Beijing for talks with Chinese leaders.

    Chen left the US embassy on Wednesday after US officials said China had offered guarantees about his safety. He was taken to a hospital where he was reunited with his wife and children.

    "My fervent hope is that it would be possible for me and my family to leave for the US on Hillary Clinton's plane," Chen said.

    Family 'starved'

    The activist, who has been receiving treatment for a broken foot sustained during his escape, said US officials had left him alone there with his family, although he said he expected them to stay with him.

    "Gary Locke, Campbell and the others took me to the hospital, but they have all left," he said, referring to US Ambassador Locke and senior diplomat Kurt Campbell.

    "By now, they haven't given us dinner yet. My children are starved."

    Chen says agreement for safety has not been honoured

    Al Jazeera's John Terrett, reporting from Washington, DC, said it was unclear whether the US would allow Chen to leave with Clinton.

    He said Beijing was angry with Washington for meddling in its domestic affairs and that it had sought an apology, though there were slim chances the US would apologise.

    "This is a diplomatic dog's breakfast ... It's a total mess and it's not at all what the state department was hoping for, and it's overshadowing the annual US-Sino talks taking place today and tomorrow [Friday]," he said.

    Our correspondent said US State Department officials had told him they feel they had done everything asked of them by Chen, including allowing him to be reunited with his family and to train as a lawyer at a university of his choice in the US.

    In a phone interview with Al Jazeera, Chen, speaking from Beijing, said: "The agreement between the US and China guranteeing my safety has not beeen fully honoured".

    Chen described the situation in his house as "very bad", saying authorities have installed seven cameras and that there are police in his home.

    "There are lots of people there. They eat at my dining table, use my furniture. The situation isn't good. They also want to install an electric fence," Chen said of his home in Dongshigu Village in Shandong province.

    Clinton silent

    The activist got in trouble with the Chinese authorities following his criticism of planning officials who he accused of forcing thousands of women to have abortions or be sterilised as part of China's one-child policy.

    Meanwhile, during talks in Beijing, Clinton pressed China on human rights but avoided mention of Chen, focusing on North Korea and Iran.

    She said the US hoped China would help rein in the nuclear activities of Pyongyang and Tehran, and pressure the Syrian government to halt violence.

    "On Iran, the United States and China share the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," Clinton told US and Chinese officials gathered in the Chinese capital.
    "It is critical that we keep the pressure on Iran to meet its international obligations, negotiate seriously, and prove that its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes," she said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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