A blind pro-life advocate who has spoken out against China’s brutal one-child policy has been offered promises of safety from Chinese government officials, but new reports suggest that he is now asking to leave the country.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a May 2 statement that she was “pleased” that the U.S. had been able to facilitate Chen Guangcheng’s situation “in a way that reflected his choices and our values.”
She stated that Chen “has a number of understandings with the Chinese government about his future” and said that the U.S. government is “committed to remaining engaged with Mr. Chen and his family” in the coming months.
According to American officials, Chen left the American Embassy in Beijing on May 2. He is receiving medical treatment at a local hospital and has been reunited with his family. Chinese officials have promised that he will be treated humanely and allowed to move with his family to a safe place in the country, where he can pursue higher education.
However, the Associated Press said that it spoke to Chen from his hospital room hours after he arrived. It reported that he now fears for his own safety and that of his family and that he wants to leave the country.
The Associated Press said that the 40-year-old pro-life activist was worried because he had been told that American embassy officials would remain with him during his time in the hospital, but when he arrived in his room, there were none there.
Chen’s close friend, Zeng Jinyan, also said Chen had told her that he wanted to leave the country but was forced into agreeing to a deal to remain due to threats that his wife would be killed if he left.
A senior U.S. State Department official said on May 2 that Chen “did not request safe passage to the United States to seek political asylum” but had instead maintained that he wished to stay in China.
Blinded by a serious illness when he was young, Chen is a human rights lawyer who has spoken out adamantly against China’s one-child policy, which is often implemented through forced abortion and sterilization.
He had arrived at the U.S. Embassy on April 26, after escaping from house arrest, where he had been held since Sept. 2010 without formal charges.
The escape took place shortly before Clinton and other diplomatic officials arrived in the country for previously scheduled meetings.
Chen, who also spent more than four years in prison, said that he and his family had been violently assaulted and refused medical treatment during his time in house arrest.
Concerns are now being raised over whether China will keep its promise of treating Chen and his family humanely.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin has been quoted as telling China's official Xinhua news agency that the United States “has interfered in the domestic affairs of China, and the Chinese side will never accept it.”
A U.S. State Department official declined to say whether the United States would issue an apology to China, but did say, “I think our actions were lawful.”
The official said that the United States “will look to confirm at regular intervals that the commitments he has received are carried out.”
However, some human rights defenders are not satisfied with the guarantees.
Bob Fu, president of the Texas-based human rights group ChinaAid, said that he has received reliable reports that Chen had reluctantly left the U.S. embassy because the Chinese government had seriously threatened his immediate family.
Fu, who has been carefully monitoring Chen’s situation, is concerned that the U.S. has left the pro-life activist in a dangerous situation.
“The government sees him as a trouble-maker and a threat to their legitimacy,” he warned.
“He has the admiration of the world right now and that will perhaps help keep him safe in the short-term, but I am fearful what could happen if the world loses interest.”