Why Chen Guangcheng wants to leave China

Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng phoned a congressional hearing
Sky News reporter Holly Williams said of her interview with Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng: "On the phone he sounded worried, tired, obviously anxious for the safety of his family, but he was also very warm and very friendly."
CBS News

(CBS News) Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng was returned to the Chinese by the U.S. Wednesday after his recent escape to the U.S. Embassy that set off a diplomatic crisis between China and the United States. Upon his return, Chen was promised he would be safe. However, Chen now wants to leave on the plane of Hillary Clinton, who is visiting China.

Chen is a famous human rights campaigner who exposed forced abortions in China that is sometimes ordered to enforce the policy that allows one child per family. We learned what it was that changed Chen's mind about staying in China in an interview he did Thursday with Asia correspondent Holly Williams of Sky News. "CBS Evening News" anchor Scott Pelley spoke with Williams about her interview.

"Well, I was able to get hold of him on his mobile phone earlier today in Beijing," she said. "He told me he couldn't make calls on the phone -- those were being blocked, he thinks, by the authorities, but people are able to call in and reach him. On the phone he sounded worried, tired, obviously anxious for the safety of his family, but he was also very warm and very friendly."

Chen told Williams he was speaking from his hospital bed. Williams asked Chen why he told diplomats at the U.S. Embassy that he wanted to stay in China. "At that time," he said, "I didn't have all the information. I couldn't get information. Now I have it, and I sense certain things, so I've changed my mind. "

Speaking to Chen in Mandarin, Williams asked whether any of his new information included threats from back in his home village. Chen said: "The (local officials) broke into my home armed with sticks and wanted to beat my family to death. They've installed seven video surveillance cameras in our garden, on the roof, and inside our house. And they're going to install an electric fence around my house."

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He concluded: "It's not safe, because the rights of citizens here can't be guaranteed. "

As Williams told Pelley: "He said he didn't blame American officials for not doing more to guarantee his safety. But he also said if he could speak directly to President Obama and Hillary Clinton, he would ask them to take concrete action to protect his family."

Pelley asked Williams if the Chinese said anything officially about whether they're interested in letting Chen go.

"Thus far they haven't made any comment on that," said Williams. "What we do know is that the Chinese are embarrassed by this whole issue of Chen Guangcheng. They've made it clear that they are angry and that they see this as unwanted American interference in the internal affairs of China."

  • Scott Pelley
    Scott Pelley

    Correspondent, "60 Minutes"