The manner in which Chen Guangcheng's associates have been treated the past few days seems to have convinced him that he and his family can feel secure only outside China’s borders.
When blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng left the US Embassy in Beijing on Wednesday, having sheltered there for six days after escaping from illegal house arrest, the Chinese government promised that he would be treated “humanely,” according to a US official who had helped negotiate his freedom.
Nothing was said, however, about the safety of his friends and family, and the fate that some of them have suffered in recent days apparently made Mr. Chen decide that he no longer trusted government assurances that he could live peacefully in China
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The original plan, according to people involved in the negotiations, was that Chen would go to study law at Tianjin, an industrial port 70 miles from Beijing, where he would no longer be harassed or beaten by the thugs employed by the local authorities in his hometown of Linyi, in Shandong province, where he and his family had been held against their will for 19 months.
Within hours, however, Chen had changed his mind, saying he feared for his safety and preferred to go abroad. On Friday, a Chinese Foreign ministry spokesman said he could “go through the normal procedures at a related department according to the law, like any other Chinese citizen” wanting to study abroad.
Chen, who has suffered for seven years at the hands of the authorities, either in jail or under house arrest, had reasons to worry about his future treatment here, to judge by the experience this week of people close to him.
His wife, Yuan Weijing, was detained by police when her husband’s escape was discovered, and tied to a chair without food or drink for two days, Chen told reporters from the hospital where he is now undergoing medical tests and treatment for a broken foot suffered during his escape.