I’ve felt bad about not posting anything regarding Chen Guangcheng recently, but that’s simply because there wasn’t any news… until tonight, when the man reportedly escaped from house arrest. Stunning and welcome news (via WaPo):
A blind legal activist who is a key figure in China’s rights movement escaped the house arrest he has lived under for a year and a half, fleeing to an unknown location and angering his captors, fellow rights campaigners said Friday.
Chen Guangcheng slipped out of his usually well-guarded house in Dongshigu town on Sunday, said the campaigners, who are based in China and overseas. He Peirong, a leading campaigner for Chen’s freedom, said she picked him up and drove him to “a relatively safe place” she would not further describe.
“His mental state is pretty good. He’s alive, but whether he’s safe I don’t know,” He said from her home city of Nanjing. She said she left Chen a few days ago but declined to discuss further details, other than to say he is no longer in his home province of Shandong, southeast of Beijing.
She denied an online report by Singapore’s Lianhe Zaobao newspaper that Chen entered the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on Thursday night. The paper did not name a source.
“I can tell you he’s not at the U.S. Embassy, and he’s not in Shandong. I did talk to the U.S. Embassy people, though,” He said.
Chen Guangcheng’s treatment by local authorities had seemed especially bitter and personal. He served four years in prison for exposing forced abortions and sterilizations in his rural community. Since his release in September 2010, local officials kept him confined to his home, despite the lack of legal grounds for doing so. They prevented outsiders from visiting him and occasionally beat him up.
If he can make it out it’ll be a slap to Beijing’s face on the scale of the Karmapa escape ten years ago. Certainly more on this as it develops.