Why Chinese activist now seeks US asylum: His family
Chen Guangcheng's sudden change, he says, is concern about the threats to his wife, two children, and mother. Will Beijing let Chen Guangcheng leave?
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"I decided to leave" the embassy, Chen told The Associated Press late Wednesday. "But I felt very frustrated, especially over the threats to my family. They said if I didn't leave, they would take my children and family back to Shandong."Skip to next paragraph
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Chen served four years in prison after a 2006 conviction on what his supporters say were charges fabricated by officials in Dongshigu, Chen's home village in Shandong.
Even after he finished serving his term, officials were ruthless in their treatment of the family, beating his wife and mother, and forcing Kerui to leave his parents. Even Kesi was targeted, with guards searching her book bag each day after school.
Chen worried that conditions would be even worse if his family was sent back.
Those concerns were heightened when his wife told him in the hospital that after he escaped last month, seven surveillance cameras were installed inside their home and guards armed with sticks began sleeping there and eating at their table.
"I feel that if my safety could have been ensured I would have wanted to stay," he said. "But now when I look at it, I don't have that kind of hope any more. I now think what I really need is to be with my family and rest."
He added that he was afraid Chinese authorities would think of some excuse to send him back to Shandong despite assurances from the central government that he would be allowed to resettle elsewhere and attend law school, with his tuition and living expenses paid.
Chen's wife has borne much of the retaliatory abuse. In family photos, she looks cheerful, a broad smile gleaming against her bronze farmer's tan, but her ordeal has been long and relentless.
In a video plea taped and posted online last week after his escape, Chen railed against the abuse of his wife.
"They broke into my house, and more than a dozen men pushed my wife to the ground and covered her in a blanket, then beat and kicked her for hours," he said, without specifying when the attack occurred.
In a letter smuggled out of their village last year, Yuan described a Feb. 18 beating that lasted two hours and left her with what she believed were a broken rib and broken brow bone, both still untreated.
She said guards put metal sheets over their windows, confiscated their belongings, denied them medical care and barred them from shopping for food.
She described how a district Communist Party official, Zhang Jian, punched her in the head after she complained about authorities taking the family's property.
In 2007, Yuan's passport and phone were confiscated at the Beijing airport when she tried to fly to the Philippines to accept a Magsaysay Award, Asia's version of the Nobel Prize, on Chen's behalf. She was forcibly returned to Shandong.
In 2009, Yuan's brother-in-law was killed in a car accident. She told a U.S. broadcaster that guards laughed when she pleaded with them to let her visit her grieving relatives.
"Physical pain, I think I can endure that, but the mental pain, I really cannot endure it," Yuan said in a taped telephone interview with New Tang Dynasty TV at the time. "They do not even let me see my sister to comfort her, and my mother. I really feel very sad."
Nor has Chen's extended family escaped the punishment.
His elder brother, Guangfu, was detained last week and is still in custody. Guangfu's adult son, Kegui, used a cleaver to attack local officials who raided his house in the middle of the night after realizing Chen had escaped. He is now a wanted man on the run.
Chen's mother, who lives with the couple, has also been under constant surveillance, with as many as three guards watching her when she works the fields. Chen said in last week's video that guards have beaten her. Around 80 years old, she is believed to still be under house arrest.
"But I don't know what her situation is," he added. "I don't know if she is safe."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.