Within hours, however, Chen found himself apparently without US protection in a hospital where activists said security officials from Shandong and plainclothes police had been waiting for him.
A close friend and well known human rights activist Zeng Jinyan told the Monitor that Chen wanted to leave China with his family, following threats by Chinese foreign ministry officials of physical violence against his wife and children.
“My biggest wish is to leave the country with my family and rest for a while,” Chen told Channel 4.
The blind lawyer told AP that a US diplomat at the hospital had relayed to him Chinese threats that his wife would have been beaten to death had he not left the embassy. US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland denied that, telling reporters that no US official spoke to Chen “about physical and legal threats to his wife and children.”
She acknowledged, however, that “Chinese officials did indicate Chen’s family would be returned to Shandong if Chen elected to stay in the embassy.”
In a video released on YouTube after his escape from Shandong, Chen recounted repeated beatings that he and his wife had suffered at the hands of his guards during his detention. Fears for his wife’s safety apparently began to prey on his mind while he was in the hospital reflecting on the deal he had reached with the Chinese government.
US officials said that while he was in the embassy Chen had insisted that he wanted to stay in China, and Ms. Zeng, wife of noted HIV/Aids activist Hu Jia, said that Chen’s wife had told her that it was she who had persuaded her husband to leave the embassy in order to reunite with his family.