Blind activist goes free after promises of safetyBEIJING (AP) — A blind Chinese activist who fled persecution by local officials in his rural town and holed up in the U.S. Embassy for six days emerged a free man Wednesdsay after U.S. officials said China had assured his safety.
BEIJING (AP) — A blind Chinese activist who fled persecution by local officials in his rural town and holed up in the U.S. Embassy for six days emerged a free man Wednesdsay after U.S. officials said China had assured his safety.
Chen Guangcheng's escape from illegal house arrest in eastern China and his flight into the protection of U.S. diplomats in Beijing last week had sparked a diplomatic tussle that threatened to derail annual U.S.-China strategic talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton starting Thursday.
U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke escorted Chen to Chaoyang Hospital, where he was reunited with his family as he awaited medical treatment for injuries suffered during his escape. On the way, the activist called his lawyer, Li Jinsong, who said Chen told him: "'I'm free. I've received clear assurances.'"
Chen, 40, also received a call from Clinton, whom he thanked in Chinese for raising his case, a U.S. official said. Chen then told Clinton in halting English, "'I want to kiss you,'" the official said.
Chen's case has been the most delicate diplomatic crisis for Washington and Beijing in years. He had become an international symbol for human dignity after running afoul of local government officials for exposing forced abortions carried out as part of China's one-child policy.
As part of the agreement that ended the fraught, behind-the-scenes standoff, U.S. officials said China agreed to let Chen and his family be relocated to a safe place in China where he could study at university, and that his treatment by local officials would be investigated.
Clinton said in a statement that Chen's exit from the embassy "reflected his choices and our values" and said the U.S. would monitor the assurances Beijing gave. "Making these commitments a reality is the next crucial task," she said.
In a fit of face-saving pique, the Chinese Foreign Ministry demanded that the U.S. apologize, investigate how Chen got into the embassy and hold those responsible accountable.
"What the U.S. side has done has interfered in the domestic affairs of China, and the Chinese side will never accept it," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in a statement.