Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠) yesterday left the US embassy, where he had sought protection after fleeing house arrest, following a deal with Beijing on his safety, US officials said.
The agreement, announced hours after US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in China for key annual talks, saw Beijing give the blind activist assurances he and his family could live a normal life, US officials said.
Chen was taken to a VIP section of a Beijing hospital in the company of US officials, including US Ambassador Gary Locke. About 20 police and security guards, some wearing riot helmets, cornered journalists and ordered them to leave.
Police detained a protester outside the hospital who carried a banner that read, “Free Guangcheng. Democracy for China,” in a defiant show of dissent.
Chen, who riled Chinese authorities by exposing forced abortions and sterilizations under the “one child” policy, fled house arrest on April 22 and sought refuge in the US embassy, where he demanded assurances on his freedom.
In a video address to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) released after his dramatic escape, Chen alleged he and his wife and young child had suffered repeated abuses at the hands of local officials in his hometown in northern China.
Clinton, who has in the past repeatedly criticized China’s treatment of the 40-year-old legal campaigner, said the US remained “committed” to his case.
“Mr Chen has a number of understandings with the Chinese government about his future, including the opportunity to pursue higher education in a safe environment. Making these commitments a reality is the next crucial task,” she said.
“The United States government and the American people are committed to remaining engaged with Mr Chen and his family in the days, weeks and years ahead,” she said.
Clinton’s statement marked the first substantive remarks on record by a US official about Chen after complete silence since his dramatic escape.
US officials said that Chen never sought passage to the US and instead wanted to live and work in China alongside his family.
Any renewed abuse against Chen could prove to be a political nightmare for US President Barack Obama’s administration, which has faced calls to show its commitment to safeguard human rights in China.
Chen’s case had threatened to overshadow the annual meeting between leaders of the world’s two largest economies on key issues ranging from North Korea’s rocket launch to Syria.
The affair has drawn an angry reaction from Beijing, which yesterday demanded that the US apologize for what it called “interference” in its affairs.
“China is very unhappy over this. The US action is an interference in China’s internal affairs and China cannot accept it,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said.
“China demands that the US apologize and thoroughly investigate this incident, deal with the people who are responsible and ensure these types of incidents do not occur again,” he said.
A US official said there would be no repeat of the incident, but declined to comment on China’s call for an apology.