Beijing: In a case that could hurt China-US ties, Chinese human rights activist Hu Jia said on Monday that his friend and fellow dissident, Chen Guangcheng, is in the US embassy in Beijing.
Hu Jia, an outspoken government critic and friend of the Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng who escaped house arrest last weekend, was detained over the weekend for questioning in the matter.
Hu further said that he got a hint from Chinese security officials that Chen had also met with US Ambassador Gary Locke.
When asked by a news agency, Hu said the Chinese officials asked him “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," the activist added.
Hu Jia, well-known for activism in support of human rights, people living with AIDS and the environment, was released in June 2011 after more than three months in prison for "attempted subversion of power”.
Chen, 40, has won worldwide acclaim for exposing forced sterilisations and late-term abortions under Chinese policy, and for using his legal knowledge to help commoners battle a range of other perceived injustices.
The self-taught lawyer escaped house arrest last Sunday in the eastern province of Shandong with the help of his supporters, and subsequently recorded a video alleging abuses against him and his family.
The United States has expressed concern about Chen, but refused any comment on his whereabouts, underscoring the huge sensitivity of the issue. A decision to grant him refuge could prove a major diplomatic irritant, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner due in Beijing on Thursday for annual talks on their often testy relationship.
The last Chinese dissident known to have been granted refuge at the US embassy was Fang Lizhi, a key figure in the pro-democracy movement who spent a year under US protection after publicly supporting the 1989 Tiananmen protests.
He was forced into exile in 1990 and died in the United States earlier this month.
(With PTI inputs)