Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng in hiding after escaping house arrest

In this image made from video, blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng is seen on a video posted to YouTube Friday, April 27, 2012 by overseas Chinese news site Boxun.com. AP Photo/Boxun.com

In this image made from video, blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng is seen on a video posted to YouTube Friday, April 27, 2012 by overseas Chinese news site Boxun.com.
In this image made from video, blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng is seen on a video posted to YouTube Friday, April 27, 2012 by overseas Chinese news site Boxun.com.
AP Photo/Boxun.com

(CBS News) Blind human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who had been under house arrest for 16 months, escaped his home in Shandong province on Sunday with the aid of fellow activists. There were unconfirmed reports that he made his way to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

Singapore newspaper Lianhe Zaobao reported that Chen had entered the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on Thursday evening, citing unnamed sources. Phone calls to embassy officials remain unanswered and the security presence outside the building was the same as usual on Friday morning.

"I am now free. But my worries have not ended yet," Chen said in a video recorded this week that was posted by citizen journalist organization Boxun.com. But he expressed concern that his escape "might ignite a violent revenge against my family."

Chen, who was blinded as a child from a fever and now wears distinguishable sunglasses, also appealed to Premier Wen Jiabao, detailing the brutal beatings by local officials.

"They muffled my wife on the floor, beating and kicking her for hours and to me as well," he said in the video, which was taped in an undisclosed location. It couldn't be independently confirmed.

Chen is currently in Beijing, confirmed Bob Fu, who heads the U.S.-based Christian organization ChinaAid. Fu has remained in close contact with the self-taught lawyer since his escape.

"I am able to verify that he is 100 percent safe now ... he is really safe," Fu said, though he declined to comment on whether Chen was in the U.S. Embassy.

Fu added that he has been in close contact with State Department officials and diplomats.

"He will be the second Fang Lizhi," said Fu, referring to the democracy movement leader who sought asylum in the U.S. Embassy for one year following the 1989 Tiananmen Square student massacre. According to U.S. refugee law, individuals who seek asylum in the U.S. must either be in the U.S. or outside the country where the individual is being persecuted.

He Peirong, a blogger, told the Associated Press that she drove Chen from Dongshigu village Sunday night and handed him off to another activist, who called Fu to say Chen was safe. He, the blogger, was detained by police and the second activist told Fu he was about to be arrested, according to the report.

Chen was first arrested in June 2006 after exposing forced abortions and sterilizations in Shandong's Linyi's prefecture. He was then sentenced to four years and three months in prison. In February 2011, Chen as well as his wife and daughter were put under house arrest where they allegedly were subjected to beatings.

According to Fu, Chen was reluctant to go abroad following his escape.

"He wants to fight to the end for the freedom of normal Chinese citizens inside China. So he's not willing, at least at the time, to go abroad," said Fu.

  • Connie Young

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