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China: Fear for safety of Mr Chen Guangcheng and his family;fellow HRD Ms He Peirong remains missing and Ms Zeng Jinyan under house arrest
On 2 May 2012, Mr Chen Guangcheng left the US Embassy in Beijing where he had taken refuge for six days following his escape on 22 April 2012 from nineteen months of strict and unlawful house arrest in his home province of Shandong.
Chen Guangcheng is reported to be receiving treatment in a nearby hospital and has expressed fears to friends and journalists about his and his family's safety. He has stated that he now wishes to leave China with his family.
Chen Guangcheng is a blind, self-taught lawyer who has defended the rights of farmers, people with disabilities and women subjected to abuse. He was also active in exposing forced abortions and sterilizations in and around Linyi City in Shangdong Province.
A fellow human rights defender who assisted his escape, Ms He Peirong, remains unaccounted for and has been missing since 27 April 2012. He Peirong has been actively campaigning for the release of Chen Guangcheng for over a year.
On 2 May 2012, Chen Guangcheng was escorted from the US Embassy to Chaoyang Hospital in Beijing by a number of US officials, including the US Ambassador to China, Mr Gary Locke. During his time at the embassy, Chen Guangcheng reportedly made clear his intention to stay in China. According to statements from US officials, an agreement had been reached whereby the Chinese Government had given Chen Guangcheng assurances that he and his family would be relocated to 'a safe environment' within China, in accordance with his wishes.
It was further stated that he would be permitted to attend university to study law and that an investigation into allegations of mistreatment of him and his family by the local authorities in Shandong province would be carried out. According to reports, Chen Guangcheng was also told that if he did not leave the embassy, his wife and two children, who were then in Beijing, would be immediately sent back to their village in Shandong province, where the family had suffered months of abuse.
After arriving at Chaoyang Hospital for treatment of injuries sustained in his escape from house arrest, Chen Guangcheng was reunited with his wife, Ms Yuan Weijing, and children. Yuan Weijing reportedly informed him of measures taken by security officials in their village on discovery that he had fled. She told him that she was tied to a chair for two days and interrogated, and that seven cameras had been installed inside their home and an electric fence erected around it. Following further discussions with friends, it is believed that Chen Guangcheng, fearing for his and his family's lives if he remained in China, changed his mind about staying in the country. On the morning of 3 May, 2012 Chen Guangcheng made clear his desire to leave China and reportedly attempted to inform US diplomats of his decision, who left the hospital on the evening of 2 May.
He Peirong, who drove Chen Guangcheng from Shandong to Beijing during his escape from house arrest, has not been heard from since approximately 11am on 27 April. At that time, she was on the phone to a contact when she reportedly stated that the Public Security Bureau had arrived at her home in Nanjing. Earlier that morning, He Peirong released details of Chen Guangcheng's escape on a micro-blogging site, following news that security guards in his home village had discovered he had fled and were taking reprisals on family members.
It has also been reported that four of Chen Guangcheng's relatives have been detained in Shandong province. A friend and fellow human rights defender, Ms Zeng Jinyan, who broke news of Chen Guangcheng's growing fears for his safety on the night of 2 May 2012, subsequently posted on Twitter that she had been placed under house arrest. For more information on Chen Guangcheng, please see www.lighthonestyhrd.org.
Front Line Defenders expresses serious concern for the safety of Chen Guangcheng and his family, the safety of fellow human rights defender He Peirong, and the freedom of Zeng Jinyan. It reiterates its call for their protection and recalls that Chen Guangcheng's human rights activities are peaceful and legitimate.
Front Line Defenders urges the Chinese authorities to respect the wishes of Chen Guangcheng and to commit to its declared promises if he chooses to remain in China, including relocation to a safe environment and investigation of abuse suffered by Chen Guangcheng and his family by local authorities in Shandong province.