Threats against family forced Chen out of US embassy?

Last Updated: Thursday, May 3, 2012 - 00:03

Beijing: The blind Chinese activist on Wednesday said that US officials told him that Chinese authorities would have beaten his wife to death had he not left the American Embassy, where he sought sanctuary after fleeing persecution by local officials in his rural town.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied that the threat was issued but said Chen was told his family would be sent back home if he stayed in the embassy.

Speaking from the hospital room where he was taken after leaving the embassy, a shaken Chen Guangcheng said that US officials told him Chinese authorities would send his family back home if he stayed inside. At one point, he said, the US officials told him his wife would be beaten to death.

"They said if I don`t leave they would take my children and family back to Shandong," Chen said to a news agency. He said he heard the death threat from an American official whom he could not identify.

The differing accounts could not be immediately reconciled. But the turn in Chen`s fate comes after nearly seven years of prison, house arrest and abusive treatment of him and his family members.

His escape from illegal house arrest in eastern China and his flight into the protection of US diplomats in Beijing last week had created a delicate diplomatic crisis for Washington and Beijing. It also threatened to derail annual US-China strategic talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton starting tomorrow.

Under the agreement that ended the fraught, behind-the-scenes standoff, US 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.

Chen, however, described an intense series of negotiations. He said he never asked to leave China and that US officials told him they would accompany him out of the embassy. But after he got to his room in Chaoyang Hospital with his family, he said no US officials stayed behind and the family is now scared and wants to leave the country.

He appealed to American officials: "Help my family and I leave safely."

PTI




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