BEIJING (Reuters) - The European Union on Monday urged China to exercise “utmost restraint” over blind dissident Chen Guangcheng, who escaped house arrest last week and is believed to be under U.S. protection in Beijing.
The United States has not confirmed whether Chen is in its diplomatic quarters in Beijing, but supporters have said he is under U.S. protection.
“We call on the Chinese authorities to exercise utmost restraint in dealing with the matter, including avoiding harassment of his family members or any person associated with him,” the Delegation of the European Union to China said in a statement.
“Human rights defenders should be treated in full compliance with Chinese laws and constitution.”
Chen escaped 19 months of house arrest on April 21, since when several supporters have been detained by police, but most have since been released.
Chen, a self-schooled legal advocate who campaigned against abortions forced under China’s “one child” policy, was held under extra-legal detention in his village home in Linyi from September 2010, when he was released from jail for charges he said were spurious.
Chen’s wife, Yuan Weijing, and child did not escape with him, and human rights activists have voiced worry that they and Chen’s other relatives might have suffered abuse at the hands of police and officials angry about his escape.
Contention over Chen’s future threatens to overshadow a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who are due in Beijing this week for the annual “strategic and economic dialogue” between the two countries.
Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Nick Macfie