Chinese blind activist Chen Guangcheng, at the center of a U.S.-China political storm, testified Thursday by telephone at a U.S. congressional hearing in Washington, saying he wants to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over his case.
Speaking from his hospital bed in Beijing, Chen said through an interpreter that he wanted to come to the United States to "take some rest" after years of detention and house arrest.
"I want to meet with Secretary Clinton and hope I can get more help from her. I also want to thank her face to face," he said at an emergency hearing over his case held by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
Clinton, who is currently attending annual U.S.-China talks in Beijing, had spoken to the 40-year-old Chen, a crusading lawyer, by phone on Wednesday as he left the U.S. Embassy where he had taken refuge after escaping from house arrest in Shandong province.
The congressional hearing was abruptly interrupted as Republican lawmaker Chris Smith announced that Bob Fu, director of the U.S.-based ChinaAid Christian rights group, had made telephone contact with Chen, who spoke in Chinese.
Fu, who instantly translated Chen's testimony at the hearing through speaker phone, said Chen, who is undergoing medical treatment for injuries sustained during his escape and when he was beaten by guards, wanted to leave China temporarily.
"He wants to come to the U.S. for some time of rest, as he did not have any rest in the past 10 years," Fu said.
Fu said earlier that Chen, who faced the wrath of the Chinese authorities over his campaign against forced abortions and sterilizations under Beijing's "one-child" policy, has not specifically raised the possibility of requesting political asylum.
"He didn't specifically use the word 'asylum,'" Fu said. "He made a very clear request that he and his family do not feel safe at all and they want to come to the U.S. for rest or visiting or medical treatment."
In his testimony, Chen said, "My biggest concern right now is the safety of my mother and brothers, and I really want to know what's going on with them."
Chen also said that following his escape from house arrest on April 22, the authorities had punished his daughter by pulling her out of school.
"So I do think all the villagers who helped me also will face retribution."
Smith told Chen his case is "the test of the Chinese commitment to protect you" and "also the test of the United States."
Reported by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.