David Pierson, Paul Richter, & Carol J. Williams
May 2, 2012
Blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng left the U.S. Embassy in
Beijing on Wednesday of his own volition, U.S. and Chinese officials said, but reports surfaced almost immediately that the dissident was coerced by threats against his family and that he has reiterated his desire to leave China.
A close friend of Chen, Beijing activist Zeng Jinyan, also said the deal with U.S. officials to keep the dissident in China was forced on him to avoid harm to his family and supporters. Zeng said she was told by Chenâ€™s wife that if her husband didnâ€™t leave the embassy, she and her children would be forced to return to their village, where thugs armed with sticks were waiting to beat them to death.
U.S. officials announced hours earlier that they had struck a deal with Chinese authorities that would allow Chen to remain in China and work at a university safe from reprisals for his escape from house arrest and his six-day refuge at the U.S. Embassy. A State Department spokeswoman in Washington insisted that Chen never sought political asylum in the United States and that he decided to leave the embassy to ensure he could be with his family.