Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng has left the US embassy in Beijing, but the conditions of his departure are unclear, with claims emerging that he only left following threats to his family by Chinese officials.
The conditions surrounding a Chinese dissident's decision to leave the US embassy in Beijing after seeking refuge there are becoming murky, with Chen Guangcheng claiming he only left because Chinese officials threatened his family.
Chen left the US embassy on Wednesday and was transferred to a hospital, where he was reunited with his wife and two children. An unnamed US official said Chen had left the embassy after US officials received assurances from their Chinese counterparts that he would be treated humanely after leaving the hospital.
"When he leaves the hospital, the Chinese authorities have stated that Mr. Chen and his family will be relocated to a safe environment so that he may attend a university to pursue a course of study," the official said.
The official added that the Chinese authorities had agreed to let US embassy officials visit Chen in hospital. He is being treated for what were described as non-life-threatening injuries that he sustained after climbing over walls during his escape from house arrest 10 days ago.
But according to an interview Chen gave with The Associated Press from the hospital, he claims the US passed on threats from Chinese authorities that his wife would have been beaten to death if he didn't leave the embassy. In the interview he asked the US for help in leaving China with his family. US officials say during negotiations Chen was adamant about remaining in China.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington that US officials had not conveyed any threatening message.
"At no time did any US official speak to Chen about physical or legal threats to his wife and children," she said. "Nor did Chinese officials make any such threats to us."
"US interlocutors did make clear that if Chen elected to stay in the embassy, Chinese officials had indicated to us that his family would be returned to Shandong, and they would lose their opportunity to negotiate for reunification,"
The 40-year-old Chen, a blind, self-taught lawyer, suffered the government's wrath after exposing forced abortions under China's one-child policy.
Chen's presence in the embassy had threatened to overshadow a visit to China by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
She had arrived in Beijing a few hours earlier, where she is scheduled to hold strategic and economic talks with the Chinese on Thursday and Friday.
Shortly after Chen's departure from the embassy, there was no sign that Chinese officials were in a forgiving mood.
"The US method was interference in Chinese domestic affairs, and this is totally unacceptable to China,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told the state-run Xinhua news agency. “China demands that the United States apologize over this, thoroughly investigate this incident, punish those who are responsible, and give assurances that such incidents will not recur."
The unnamed US official hinted that Washington had likely provided such assurances.
"This was an extraordinary case involving exceptional circumstances and we do not anticipate that it will be repeated," the official said.
mz,pfd/tj (AP, dpa, Reuters)