Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese dissident who recently took refuge in the US embassy following his dramatic escape from house arrest, has requested exit from the country on board Hillary Clinton’s jet, according to an interview conducted by The Daily Beast.
Chen, a self-taught lawyer, escaped from house arrest last Friday, scaling a wall despite having no sight.
The activist, a vocal critic of the Chinese regime, has become the focus of a mounting diplomatic storm amid conflicting accounts of why he left the protection of the US Embassy following his flight for freedom.
According to US authorities, Chen expressed his desire to stay in China and was therefore released from US protection. However, more recently Chen has reportedly had a change of heart, with the activist now pleading for passage out of China.
Speaking to The Daily Beast, Guangcheng said: "My fervent hope is that it would be possible for me and my family to leave for the US on Hillary Clinton's plane,” he said, adding: “I hope to seek medical treatment in the US with my family, and then I want to rest.”
Guangcheng had seemingly decided to stay in China after receiving assurances from the Chinese Government concerning his freedom.
Officials led the activist out of the US Embassy earlier this week to receive hospital treatment for injuries sustained during his escape. However, according to journalist Melinda Liu, Chen believed US officials would remain by his side. They did not and, according to Chen, subsequent attempts to contact the US Embassy have failed.
Guangcheng said he now wants to leave China
Reflecting on Chen's exit from US diplomatic protection, Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the US State Department, said that Chen had “expressed his desire to stay in China, reunify with his family, continue his education and work for reform in his country”.
According to The Associated Press (AP), Guangcheng now fears for his safety and that of his family, despite an allegedly brokered deal between US diplomats and Chinese authorities that would guarantee the dissident’s future safety.
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Speaking to AP, Chen said: "I think we'd like to rest in a place outside of China… Help my family and me leave safely."
The activist spent seven years under house arrest for speaking out against forced abortions in China. During his incarceration, he and his family were reportedly the victims of harassment and abuse at the hands of Chinese authorities.
The latest twist in the diplomatic row threatens to escalate tensions between Beijing and Washington, with the US seemingly duty bound to ensure Chen’s safety, shifting China’s record on human rights to the fore of Clinton’s current talks with the Chinese government.