Noted Chinese activist Chen makes daring escape from detention


CHEN GUANGCHENG, the blind “barefoot lawyer” forcibly detained in his home since his release from prison in September 2010, has made a daring escape from captivity. There were unconfirmed reports that he had taken shelter in the US embassy in Beijing.

Mr Chen, probably China’s best-known political activist, has presented the Chinese government in Beijing with a difficult challenge by posting a video online appealing to premier Wen Jiabao for help in resolving his case.

“Dear Premier Wen, it was not easy for me to escape. I can confirm that all the rumours on the internet about the violence done to me at Linyi were all the truth. The actual facts are even worse than the rumours you know from the internet,” said Mr Chen.

Blinded by a fever in infancy and self-taught as a lawyer, Mr Chen was jailed for drawing attention to forced sterilisations and abortions related to China’s one-child policy in his locality of Linyi, Shandong province.

After his release he and his family had been kept under a particularly brutal form of house arrest by local authorities, but the central government has always distanced itself from the case.

Wen Jiabao is seen as a caring figure within the leadership, often referred to as “Grandpa Wen” for his compassionate approach during disasters such as the Sichuan earthquake.

He has also been vocal in calling for political reform in China, although his influence is waning as he enters the last few months of his rule.

Mr Chen asked Mr Wen to investigate his treatment, protect his family and investigate the possibly corrupt elements who had fought a campaign of oppression against him. Activists said his wife, Yuan Weijing, their son and his mother were still at the family’s village home, which was surrounded by authorities after they discovered Mr Chen had disappeared.

While under house arrest, his home in the village of Dongshigu was guarded by a cohort of hired guards who attacked any friends, relatives, diplomats and journalists who tried to approach him and turned it into a no-go area.

British film star Christian Bale of Batman fame was assaulted when he went to visit Mr Chen in December.

Mr Chen’s name is banned on popular Chinese microblogging website Weibo, so most users use code words to find him, such as “blind brother” or the “man wearing sunglasses”.

“If the blind brother really has been to the US embassy, I’m really worried about his family security – those people at Linyi, they can do anything crazy,” wrote one.

Another wrote: “He has escaped from the clutches of the devil.”

Human Rights in China said Mr Chen’s nephew Chen Kegui confirmed that his uncle had fled, adding that Chen Guangfu, his father and the lawyer’s older brother, had been taken away on Thursday night, April 26th.

Chen Kegui said his mother had that day overheard one of the guards watching Mr Chen’s home say on the phone: “Chen Guangcheng is no longer here.”

Chen Kegui’s house is located about 200 metres from Mr Chen’s house in Dongshigu village.

Chen Kegui said the head of the local township had arrived with the Shuanghou township chief Zhang Jia, who was in charge of enforcing his uncle’s house arrest.

The local leader, Chen Kegui said, had ordered his men to attack him with sticks after he had picked up kitchen knives to defend himself, but he fought back and his assailants ran way.

Chen Kegui said he was now in hiding and feared for his life.