'No News' on Chen Study Leave

U.S. officials have no timetable for the Chinese activist's departure.
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This undated photo shows rights activist Hu Jia (R) sharing a light moment with Chen Guangcheng after his escape, at an undisclosed location in Beijing.
This undated photo shows rights activist Hu Jia (R) sharing a light moment with Chen Guangcheng after his escape, at an undisclosed location in Beijing.

Blind Chinese rights activist Chen Guangcheng, whose dramatic escape from house arrest to the shelter of the U.S. embassy has sparked a diplomatic row between Washington and Beijing, said he has received no word from Chinese officials in spite of an agreement to let him study overseas.

Chen, who has been offered a fellowship and a visa to study in New York, has a foot in plaster and remains confined to his room at Beijing's Chaoyang Hospital following the departure of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton following bilateral talks on Saturday.

"Right now I have only been able to see that announcement from the foreign ministry on the news," Chen said in an interview on Sunday, in an apparent reference to Friday's statement saying he was free to apply to travel abroad.

"I still don't know what the actual situation is."

"I haven't received any kind of official notification, and they haven't told me anything [verbally], either," he said.

Chen, 40, who spent four years in jail after exposing forced abortions and sterilizations under China's draconian "one-child" policy, has been offered a place as a visiting student at New York University's law school.

If Beijing allows the family to leave, he will be accompanied by his wife, Yuan Weijing and the couple's two young children.

Yuan said the couple was being kept isolated in spite of repeated pleas to hospital staff to allow friends to visit.

"None of our friends is being allowed to see us right now," Yuan said on Sunday. "We have told them about this problem, because Guangcheng wants to see his friends."

"This would have a beneficial effect on his recovery," she said. "He hasn't seen any of his friends for so many years."

No Timetable given

Last week, U.S. officials said they expect Beijing to deliver on the agreement reached in private negotiations, but declined to give a timetable for the Chen family's departure, or to say whether they had received firm assurances from the Chinese government that no further obstacles would be put in their way.

Chen's dramatic escape from Shandong province on April 22, where his home village of Dongshigu was under surveillance by at least 100 security guards, came after the family had been held under house arrest for nearly 20 months following his release from a four-year jail term for "obstructing traffic."

His flight to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing once again drew a sharp reprimand from China's foreign ministry on Monday.

Beijing last week demanded that the United States apologize for sheltering the blind activist, who fled house arrest last month for the U.S. embassy, where he spent six days.

"The U.S. side should draw a lesson from the relevant incident with a responsible attitude, reflect on its policies and moves and take necessary measures to prevent similar incidents," said foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular news briefing in Beijing on Monday.

Rights groups and lawyers say Chen is now exposed and vulnerable, being entirely in the hands of Chinese officials since he left the protection of the embassy following threats to his wife and family.

Lawyer beaten

Chinese police on Friday detained and beat prominent Beijing rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong about the head, causing his hearing to deteriorate.

Jiang, who is currently under surveillance at his Beijing home, said he was beaten up by five officeres from the Haidian district public security bureau when he traveled to try to visit Chen in hospital on Friday.

"There is an obvious [health] problem now as a result of being beaten on that occasion," Jiang said in an interview on Sunday. "It has got a bit better, but I am still clearly losing some hearing capability. I haven't gone totally deaf, though."

He said there were "large numbers" of security personnel guarding his apartment block at ground level. "There is also a vehicle which they have driven right up against the exit to my building, and there are two people on the stairs by the side of my apartment door," Jiang said.

"They are sitting on stools, and you can see them as soon as you open my front door," he said.

Meanwhile, Du Yanlin, who works for outspoken artist and social critic Ai Weiwei, has also said was forced to leave when he tried to visit Chen on Friday.

Catherine Baber, deputy director of Amnesty International's East Asia division, said that if Beijing allowed Chen and his family to go overseas, but then took retaliatory action against his family and supporters in China, it would render any deal with Washington meaningless.

However, Chen told the Associated Press on Monday that he was confident of being allowed to leave.

"Since the Chinese government has promised to safeguard my constitutionally provided rights and freedom and safety, I feel that they will fulfill their commitments because it is after all an agreement between two countries," Chen told AP.

Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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