News24

Chen says China helping him get passport

2012-05-08 08:38

Beijing - Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng said on Tuesday officials have told him they will help him get a passport to leave, but friends and US embassy staff are still being blocked from visiting him in hospital.

Chen also said he and his wife were unable to leave the hospital where he is being treated for injuries sustained during his dramatic flight from house arrest, and for a stomach condition untreated since he was in prison.

The blind legal campaigner spent six days in the US embassy in Beijing after fleeing house arrest in eastern China, putting him at the centre of a major diplomatic wrangle between Washington and Beijing.

Since emerging from US protection last week, he has said he fears for his safety and wants to travel to the United States with his family to take up a university fellowship.

Speaking to AFP by telephone from his hospital bed, he said government officials had visited him on Monday and said they would begin procedures to allow him to leave China.

"Yesterday [Monday] they came, I told them please help me do the procedures, they mainly need to get passports," Chen said.

"They said they will help me get them, but I don't know if they are actually doing that."

Chen, who served four years in jail after exposing forced abortions and sterilisations under China's "one-child" population-control policy, left the embassy last Wednesday for a Beijing hospital after China agreed he could move to a safe place.

Heavy security

But after speaking to friends and hearing from his wife of the beatings she sustained at the hands of local officials at their home in eastern China, he said he wanted to leave the country.

Since then, US embassy officials have been blocked from visiting him in the hospital, which is surrounded by heavy security, and Chen said neither he nor his wife was able to leave.

"They [US officials] cannot come in and see me, they have not been able to come in one time," Chen said.

"My friends can't come and visit, I haven't seen one friend since I've been here.

"What I hope is that the Chinese government can fully implement their commitments they made to me concerning my rights as a citizen and my personal freedom."

He also said he was worried about his nephew Chen Kegui, who was detained after attacking an intruder at his home in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong with a knife after his uncle's escape was discovered.

The intruder is thought to have been a local security agent angered by Chen's escape.