Chinese Dissident Chen Guangcheng Not Seeking Asylum But Remains in U.S. Embassy in Beijing

Chinese rights activist Chen Guangcheng is in the US embassy in Beijing but is not seeking asylum, fellow dissident Hu Jia says.

In a video posted online after his escape, Mr Chen called on Premier Wen Jiabao to prosecute local officials who have subjected him and his family to repeated beatings during his time under house arrest, for his family to be protected, and for Premier Wen to act to end official corruption in China. Photo: YouTube

Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught lawyer, fled house arrest in Shandong province on April 22 with the help of supporters from under the noses of dozens of guards and subsequently recorded a video alleging abuses against him and his family.

Illiterate until he was 20, Chen became famous as a self-taught lawyer, fighting government corruption, reports CBS News.

Chen’s biggest case was a lawsuit against the use of forced abortions to uphold China’s one-child policy. The 40-year-old’s outspoken ways landed him four years in jail, then 19 months of house arrest with his wife and family.

Hu Jia, who was detained over the weekend for questioning in the affair, said Chinese security officials indicated that Mr Chen had met with US ambassador Gary Locke since the activist’s dramatic flight from house arrest, writes The Australian.

“He is in the embassy,” Mr Hu, who had met with Mr Chen after his escape. “(Security officials) asked when Chen Guangcheng met with ambassador Gary Locke.”

“So it seems very clear that he has met with the American ambassador. I had no way of answering. I do not know what is going on inside. But when I heard this I was very surprised and excited,” he added.

According to The Telegraph, Chen’s alleged presence at the US embassy has heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington ahead of talks due to start in the Chinese capital this Thursday between the country’s leadership and Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, and Timothy Geithner, the treasury secretary.

One of Mrs Clinton’s assistant secretaries of state Kurt Campbell arrived in the Chinese capital earlier than planned yesterday, as officials engaged in tense negotiations about Mr Chen’s fate.

The Guardian tells that Texas-based ChinaAid said on Saturday that “high level talks are currently under way between US and Chinese officials regarding Chen’s status”.

“Dear Premier Wen, I have finally escaped,” Chen announced in a videotaped message from an undisclosed location to China’s second ranked leader, Premier Wen Jiabao, released on Friday, reports Reuters.

Chen said in the video message that he had been under continual surveillance at his home and in the surrounding streets. “As far as I can tell, given that I can’t see, there were about 90 to 100 police, Party and government officials,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, demanded that US officials “take every measure” to ensure that Chen Guangcheng and his family were “protected from further persecution” despite the potential for the situation to descend into a diplomatic crisis.

Romney said in a statement that any “serious” policy on China must confront Beijing’s “denial of political liberties, its one-child policy, and other violations of human rights.”

He added: “Our country must play a strong role in urging reform in China and supporting those fighting for the freedoms we enjoy.”

John Brennan, President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, pointed out that the US relationship with China was “very important” and officials would have to make sure that the “appropriate balance is struck”, prompting Republican concerns that he was mulling concessions.

“The president tries to balance our commitment to human rights, making sure that the people throughout the world have the ability to express themselves freely and openly, but also that we can continue to carry out our relationships with key countries overseas,” Brennan said.

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