A U.S.-based China rights organization says blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng is under U.S. protection but that two of his realtives have been arrested.
Speaking to VOA late Sunday, ChinaAid President Bob Fu said Chen is safe and at a location far from his home, but the only option left for him might be to flee to the United States.
Citing sources close to Chen, Fu said more than two dozen military police reportedly arrested Chen's elder brother and nephew Friday morning, the same day Chen allegedly went into U.S. protection. Chen's wife, daughter and mother reportedly still are under very tight house arrest.
The United States has expressed concern about Chen's fate, but refused all comment on his whereabouts, amid reports he fled to the U.S. embassy in Beijing.
In an interview with Fox News Sunday, U.S. President Barack Obama's top counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, said Mr. Obama will do whatever he thinks is in the best interest of the United States, as well as the individuals involved. Brennan would not confirm when Chen was in U.S. custody, but reiterated the importance of U.S -China relations.
Chen, a lawyer and activist, was arrested after documenting abuses in China's policy on restricting the size of most families. He disappeared Sunday from Dongshigu village in the eastern province of Shandong, although authorities did not realize he was missing until Thursday. It is not clear where he went, but his friend and fellow activist Hu Jia said he believed that Chen was admitted into the embassy Friday.
U.S. diplomats there declined any comment and a spokesman for the Chinese government said he knew nothing of the reports.
The development comes days before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are due to visit Beijing for talks.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said at a briefing in Beijing Saturday on the upcoming talks that he had no information on Chen's case.
In Washington, U.S. Republican Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, told VOA he is relieved that Chen has escaped. Smith chairs a commission on China that includes members of Congress and presidential appointees, the Congressional-Executive Commission on the People's Republic of China.
But Smith expressed concern about the safety of Chen's family and supporters in China.
A relative of Chen told VOA that many police officers, some armed, have converged on his home in Dongshigu.
In a video posted online Friday, Chen detailed the abuses he and his family have allegedly suffered in his year-and-a-half under house arrest. He also called on Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to investigate human rights abuses in China.
Chen, who campaigned against forced abortions under China's "one child" policy, had been held under house arrest since he was released from a four-year prison sentence in September 2010.