The mother and brother of Chinese blind dissident Chen Guangcheng, who is based in New York, departed for the United States on Wednesday, although two of their close associates were denied permission to travel by Chinese authorities.
Chen's mother Wang Jinxiang and brother Chen Guangfu boarded the flight in Beijing on Wednesday morning.
Chen Guangfu said on Tuesday that they planned to visit Chen, his wife, and two children in New York, where they have lived since the dissident's daring escape from 18 months of house arrest in the eastern province of Shandong in April 2012.
Before leaving, Chen Guangfu, who has vowed to return to China as long as his son Chen Kegui remains in jail, said there were still "many others in need of help" because of their connection to the family.
"Everyone has shown great concern for [my brother], and they all helped him when he was in trouble, and now he is free," Chen Guangfu said before boarding the plane in Beijing on Wednesday evening.
"Now they need to help many others who are in need of help," he said.
Chen Guangfu also voiced concerns over his son's health following his sentencing for his role in clashes with officials who invaded his home and attacked his family in the wake of Chen Guangcheng's escape.
"He's not doing well, and it's probably because the food is very poor," he said. "However, he hasn't been beaten up."
Chen Kegui has been denied prison visits since last April.
Shandong-based activist Lu Qiumei, who has long been a close friend of the Chen family, said Xu Dali, one of the local women helped by Chen's advocacy work, had been prevented from leaving the country since recently visiting the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
"We went with [Chen's family members] to get a visa so we could visit Chen Guangcheng in the United States, as tourists, but when we got back to [Shandong], [the government] sent more than 30 people and six vehicles, to put [Xu] under surveillance," Lu said.
"Now, there is a large group of people who follow her everywhere she goes," Lu said. "My daughter and I are going to wait to see how things turn out for Xu Dali, and then decide our next move."
Xu said she had made the trip to Beijing on Oct. 19, but that her home had been surrounded by police three days after her return to Shandong's Linyi city.
She said her brother had been killed in clashes with the authorities, who had kidnapped a baby boy deemed to be an "excess birth" under China's draconian family planning rules on March 21, 2011.
Chen Guangcheng is a legal scholar currently sponsored by the Catholic University of America, the Witherspoon Institute and the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice.
After 18 months of house arrest in Shandong's Dongshigu village, he outwitted his guards and made his way to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, where Chinese and American officials eventually struck a deal allowing him and his family to go to New York so that he could pursue his studies.
The blind activist and self-taught lawyer has said that he and his family experienced illegal detention and brutal beatings while under house arrest and that Beijing had promised him it would dismiss officials responsible for the mistreatment.
But the family says officials in Shandong have continued to break the law and have stepped up persecution aimed at Chen Guangcheng's relatives.
Chen Kegui was sentenced to three years and three months in prison last November for attacking officials who stormed his home to search for his uncle.
Chen Guangcheng, who exposed forced abortions under the China's one-child policy and defended the rights of ordinary people, was jailed for four years in 2006 for "disrupting traffic and damaging property," and placed under house arrest along with his wife and young daughter immediately following his release.
Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.