Despite being blind since childhood, Chinese legal rights activist Chen Guangcheng managed to slip away from house arrest at his closely-guarded home and may have sought refuge at the US embassy in Beijing.
Chen Guangcheng has been under house arrest since he was released from a four-year jail sentence in September 2010. Despite guards posted at his home, Chen managed to give security officers the slip and escape his house arrest, said some of his supporters that helped him get away. Making Chen's escape even more remarkable is the fact that his guards had a clear advantage: the ability to see.
A childhood disease left the 40-year-old Chen blind from a young age, but he still managed to come away with the help of his supporters.
Chen confirmed his escape in a video posted online on Friday. There is speculation that he has taken refuge at the US embassy in Beijing, but the embassy has so far not commented on the matter.
Chen gained notoriety in 2005 when he protested forced sterilizations and late-term abortions carried out under China's "one-child" policy. The activist's efforts landed him in jail.
Since his release, Chen and his family have reportedly suffered beatings at the hands of his guards.
In Friday's video, Chen made a plea to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to punish government and police officials who had conducted the abuse.
"Even though I am now free, I am still concerned because my family - my mother, my wife, my child are still in their hands," he said. "They have hurt them for a long time, and they could enact crazed revenge on them because of my departure. This revenge could be completely unrestrained."
Supporters who helped Chen escape spoke out for the first time on Friday, saying they had helped Chen leave his home in Dongshigu, Shandong province, southeast of Beijing, on Sunday.
"His mental state is pretty good," said He Peirong, a leading campaigner for Chen's freedom, who also claimed she picked him up on Sunday and drove him to a "relatively safe place."
"He's alive," He added in her interview with The Associated Press," but whether he's safe I don't know."
Local authorities in Shandong province were reportedly angered than Chen had eluded them and conducted a thorough search of the town of Dongshigu. Members of Chen's family, including his father and brother, were also beaten during the search, said He.
mz/rg (AFP, AP, Reuters)