Human rights activists said Friday that Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who has spoken out against forced abortions, is safe after escaping house arrest earlier this month. But his exact location has not been confirmed.
Friends and fellow activists say Chen escaped Sunday, evading guards who had been keeping him inside his home in the eastern Shandong province.
They say Chen, who is blind, fled at night by scaling a high wall and was taken by car, evading checkpoints, before making it to Beijing.
Chen Guangchen background:
- Self-taught lawyer, blinded by a fever in infancy
- Jailed in 2006 after exposing forced abortions and sterilizations
- Named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of 2006
- Under house arrest since his release from prison in September, 2010
- Escaped his heavily-guarded home on April 22, 2012
- Posted video online days later detailing abuses he says he and his family suffered
Chen, a self-taught lawyer, has accused authorities of forcing thousands of women to have late-term abortions or sterilizations under China's policy of restricting the size of most families. Chen and his family were put under round-the-clock house arrest in 2010, after he was released from a four-year jail sentence.
Close friend and fellow activist Hu Jia said Friday that he believed Chen was allowed into the U.S. embassy in Beijing, but this has not been confirmed.
A U.S. embassy spokesman said he did not have any information on Chen. A U.S. State Department spokeswoman repeatedly said during her daily briefing Friday that she had no comment on Chen.
Chen released an online video Friday addressed to Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in which Chen said he had been beaten.
New Jersey Representative Chris Smith has raised awareness about Chen's plight.
"I am relieved to hear the reported news of human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng's escape from extended illegal home confinement and hope that he is safe as his supporters have indicated," he said.
But Smith said he is worried about the safety of Chen's family members.
The New York-based group Human Rights Watch called on China to guarantee Chen's safety.
Another U.S.-based group, All Girls Allowed, which campaigns against gender-selective abortions, released a statement calling on the U.S. government to keep China accountable and to protect Chen, if he is at the U.S. embassy in Beijing.