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WRAPUP 12-China dissident afraid, now wants to leave country-reports
May 2, 2012 / 7:46 PM / 5 years ago

WRAPUP 12-China dissident afraid, now wants to leave country-reports

* China and U.S. say Chen left embassy of his own accord

* Dissident said to have second thoughts after talking to wife

* ‘He wants to leave as soon as possible” -CNN reports

* China demands an apology for U.S. ‘meddling’

By Andrew Quinn and Chris Buckley

BEIJING, May 2 (Reuters) - Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng left the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on Wednesday after securing guarantees that he could live in safety with his family in China, but he quickly appeared to have second thoughts.

Under a deal described by U.S. officials, China committed to allow Chen to be relocated within the country along with his family and to study at a university, an outcome that would have kept him a pivotal figure in China-U.S. relations.

However, within hours of his release to a Beijing hospital and being reunited with his wife, Chen gave interviews saying he feared for his life after he learned of the way his wife had been treated and he now wanted to leave the country.

“He wants to leave and he wants to leave as soon as possible,” a CNN reporter said on air, saying he had spoken to Chen for 15 to 20 minutes by telephone and that the activist, who opposed forced abortions in China, felt “let down” by the United States.

Earlier, U.S. officials and Chinese officials said Chen left the embassy of his own free will after days of negotiations between the two governments. U.S. officials said that Chen wanted to remain in China and that he never asked for asylum.

Chen’s dramatic escape from house arrest and his flight to the U.S. Embassy have already made him a symbol of resistance to China’s shackles on dissent, and the deal struck by Washington and Beijing to have him remain in China would ensure he stays a test case of how tight or loose those restrictions remain.

China angrily accused the United States of meddling and demanded an apology for the way U.S. diplomats handled the case.

Bob Fu, the president of Texas-based religious and human rights group, ChinaAid, said Chen agreed to leave the embassy only because “serious threats to his immediate family members were made by Chinese government” if he refused the government’s offer. Dissident Hu Jia said his wife Zeng Jinyan had spoken to Chen’s wife, who also spoke of threats from the government.

Fu of ChinaAid, which has been a key source of information about Chen since his escape, said the group was very concerned about reports from what he called “reliable sources” that Chen’s departure from the embassy was involuntary. “Relevant reports show unfortunately the U.S. side ‘has abandoned Mr Chen,'” Fu said in a statement.

U.S. officials denied that they had discussed any threats to Chen’s family, saying Chinese officials had not discussed any threats with them, and said they had acted to secure his wish to remain in China and continue his work.

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