Chen Guangcheng

Blind activist will fly to U.S. 'in days'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 May, 2012, 12:00am


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Blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng, whose flight to the US embassy in Beijing last month caused a diplomatic crisis, will leave for the United States within a few days, according to two independent sources.

A source close to the activist's family said Chen had been told to make preparations to leave within the next few days, although he could not give a specific date.

A mainland media source said Chen could depart as soon as today. He said his company had told staff to refrain from reporting on the news or picking up overseas reports of Chen's imminent departure.

Speaking by phone from Beijing's Chaoyang Hospital last night, Chen said he would not be surprised if the authorities wanted him and his family to leave at short notice to prevent him from telling others in advance.

'Maybe they will suddenly tell me to go,' he said. 'They might send us to the airport and give us the passports there.'

On Wednesday, government officials gave Chen forms to fill in to apply for passports for himself, his wife and his two children. It was the first concrete sign that Beijing would be willing to let them go to the United States.

The move came a day after the US State Department said the family's visas were ready and that they could travel as soon as they had Beijing's approval.

Chen - who enraged local officials by exposing forced sterilisations and abortions in an abuse of the one-child policy - escaped 19 months of extra-legal house arrest in his village home in Linyi , Shandong province, on April 20.

He later made his way to the US embassy in Beijing, where he stayed for six days. He left the embassy on May 2 after China and the US hastily reached an agreement that Chen would be able live in safety on the mainland, but he changed his mind within a few hours.

He then said he feared for his safety and wanted to go to the United States. New York University has offered him a fellowship to study law.

Chen has accused Shandong officials of taking revenge on his extended family after his escape, torturing his elder brother, Chen Guangfu , and beating his 33-year-old nephew, Chen Kegui .

Chen Guangfu helped his brother escape while his son, Chen Kegui, has been charged with 'intentional homicide' for attacking officials who broke into his home after Chen Guangcheng escaped, even though no one was killed.

Several lawyers said they had been barred from representing Chen Kegui. Ding Xikui and Si Weijiang were told by the authorities that they would not be allowed to defend him as he had to use governmentappointed lawyers.

The authorities earlier promised Chen Guangcheng that they would investigate abuses against him since 2005, when he was dragged off a street in Beijing and forcibly taken back to Shandong. He was jailed for more than four years on trumped-up charges in 2006 and put under house arrest on his release in 2010.

Additional reporting by Minnie Chan