WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng made a dramatic telephone appeal to come to the United States in a call broadcast live on Thursday to a U.S. congressional hearing.
"I want to come to the U.S. to rest. I have not had a rest in 10 years," Chen said, his comments in Chinese made on a mobile telephone that was held up to a microphone at the hearing. "I'm concerned most right now with the safety of my mother and brothers. I really want to know what's going on with them."
Chen's appeal, apparently made from the Beijing hospital room where he is sequestered, was the latest twist in a saga that threatens to upset U.S.-China relations and has put rising pressure on President Barack Obama to assure the dissident's safety.
Chen escaped house arrest in China's Shandong province and found shelter in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He left the embassy Wednesday, but almost immediately changed his mind about a deal that U.S. officials had said would allow him to relocate with his family and pursue his studies at a university.
Speaking in Mandarin Chinese and sounding lucid and in good spirits, Chen repeated his request to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is in Beijing for high-level U.S.-China talks.
"I hope I can get more help from her," he said. "Also, I want to thank her face-to-face."
Chen also expressed fear for his family and the villagers who had helped him escape.
"I want to also emphasize that after I was found missing from Shandong, immediately my daughter's education was terminated," he said. "She was not allowed to go to school anymore. ... All the villagers who are helping me were also receiving retribution."
Writing by Arshad Mohammed and Warren Strobel; Editing by Philip Barbara