Chen sounding upbeat about life, say friends
Blind activist Chen Guangcheng sounded optimistic about his future, according to friends who spoke with him, but said he would keep trying to bring to justice those who abused him and his family in the eastern province of Shandong .
He also appealed to mainland officials to help him apply for travel documents to the United States.
According to lawyer Li Jinsong, who represented Chen during his trial in 2006 and brought action against Shandong officials for subsequent abuse, Chen (pictured) was upbeat during their phone call yesterday afternoon.
It was the first lengthy conversation the two had enjoyed since Chen left the US embassy in Beijing on Wednesday, where he sought refuge after escaping house arrest in Linyi, Shandong. Li said Chen still wanted him to be his lawyer.
'He said the central government sent an official from the letters and petitions office to speak to him, and the official clearly indicated there would be an investigation and handling [of his complaints about abuses by Linyi officials],' Li said, noting that Chen was eager to share the news.
'Chen said he told the official it would be appropriate for a lawyer to be involved and recommended me,' Li said. 'The official said [they] would seek further instructions, so I'll wait to hear from them.'
Meanwhile, US Vice-President Joe Biden said in an interview on NBC's Meet the Press that the United States expected China to stick to its commitment to let Chen go abroad and take up a fellowship at New York University.
'I think his future is in America,' Biden said. 'He has an opportunity to go to NYU ... and we're prepared to give [him] a visa right away. He's going to be able to take his family.'
Chen made his daring nighttime escape from house arrest on April 22, and made it to the US embassy with the help of friends. He was released from prison in September 2010 after serving a sentence of four years and three months for leading a campaign against Linyi officials' excessive enforcement of the one-child policy.
He and his family were immediately put under house arrest after his release and were frequently physically abused.
The director of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre's Hong Kong Office, Patrick Poon, wrote on his Twitter account yesterday afternoon that, in his phone conversation with Chen, the activist thanked Hong Kong supporters and urged legislators in the city to demand the central government investigate illegal activities in Shandong.
Neither Chen nor Poon could be reached by phone yesterday.
Chen also appealed to officials to help him with his passport application, since he is still being treated for injuries sustained during his escape. 'I have notified the hospital to invite them [government officials] to help me with the procedures. I really don't have a way,' he told Agence France-Presse in a telephone interview. 'It's difficult for me to get out of bed and my other friends cannot come, so I have no way. They [US diplomats] have come, but they can't see me.'
On Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Chen could apply to study abroad like any other Chinese citizen. Veteran Chinese law professor at New York University Jerome Cohen later confirmed Chen had been offered a fellowship at the university's US-Asia Law Institute and 'could be here quite soon'.
On Thursday police removed lawyer Jiang Tianyong from Chaoyang hospital where he was trying to meet Chen and held him for nine hours. He said he was hit three times by an officer, who injured his ears.
On Friday, about a dozen foreign journalists in Beijing were summoned by police and told if they continued to breach Chinese reporting rules their visas could be revoked. Several Hong Kong journalists had their home return permits confiscated for a short period yesterday morning.