Blind activist Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠) yesterday said China had agreed to issue him a passport within 15 days, allowing him to go to the US after a bitter row between Beijing and Washington.
It was the first indication of when Chen would be allowed to leave the country since he left the US embassy more than two weeks ago after seeking refuge there following his dramatic escape from house arrest.
Speaking by telephone from the hospital where he is being treated, Chen also said authorities had promised to investigate murder charges brought against his nephew that he has said are motivated by revenge.
“Officials visited yesterday. We filled out passport application forms for myself, my wife and children,” said the 40-year-old legal campaigner, who triggered a diplomatic crisis when he fled to the US embassy last month.
“They said the passports should be issued within 15 days,” he added.
Chen, one of China’s best-known dissidents, has won plaudits for exposing rights abuses, including forced sterilizations and late-term abortions under China’s “one child” family planning policy.
His nephew, Chen Kegui (陳克貴), is in detention charged with “intentional homicide” over an attack on a local official who broke into the family’s home after discovering that Chen Guangcheng had escaped from under the noses of his guards.
The official was said at the time to have survived the attack and the charge has baffled lawyers representing Chen Kegui, who say it will not stand up in court. Police in Yinan County, which includes Dongshigu, refused to comment on the case when contacted by reporters.
Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a rights group, said police had detained and tortured Chen Guangcheng’s older brother, Chen Guangfu (陳光福), the father of Chen Kegui, on April 27 — the day of the break-in.
“Authorities handcuffed Chen Guangfu and shackled his legs, and then whipped his hands with a leather belt, struck him in the ribs, and stomped hard on his feet,” the group said in a statement late on Wednesday.
“The abuses against Chen Guangfu represent the most physically violent treatment to surface so far among the spate of retaliatory acts towards those with links to Chen Guangcheng after his flight from house arrest,” the group said.
Chen Guangfu remains “under strict control” and cannot contact other family members, including many who are also being monitored by authorities, the group said, citing local sources in Yinan.