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China must guarantee Chen Guangcheng's safety

Fears for blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng , who made a bold escape from illegal house arrest, have prompted Amnesty International to urge China to ensure his safety and that of his family and friends.

Sarah Schafer, an Amnesty International China Researcher, said:

“Chinese officials have kept Chen Guangcheng and his family under illegal house arrest for a year and a half, subjecting them to horrendous treatment, including beatings and preventing his family from leaving the house even to buy food. It is time for this shameful saga to end.”

Chen, a legal activist, is known for exposing forced abortion and sterilisation practices in Linyi, Shandong Province. He escaped house arrest earlier this week after 19 months.

Two individuals have been detained in connection with the escape.

Sources indicate that He Peirong, a supporter of Chen who aided in his escape, was one of those held. She had detailed the escape on her microblog, which was later deleted.

Authorities have also reportedly detained Chen Guangcheng’s older brother, Chen Guangfu.

According to the US based China Aid Association, Chen Guangcheng escaped from his home in Shandong province earlier this week with the help of several friends. Today the group said the activist was at a “100 percent safe location” in Beijing. But Amnesty could not confirm Chen Guangcheng's whereabouts and concern remains about his safety.

In a video message released today, Chen Guangcheng says he has “finally escaped”, reporting that the abuse he and his family suffered under house arrest was even worse than internet rumours had suggested.

He said authorities, or those hired by them, had beaten his wife so badly they broke a bone near her left eye but would not allow her to seek medical treatment. They also beat his mother. Chen Guangcheng said his daughter is followed each day by three people who search her school bag.

He added that he feared for the safety of his family, including his wife, Yuan Weijing, and his young daughter, both of whom he presumed were still held captive and could become targets for "revenge" by the authorities.

In the video, Chen Guangcheng addresses Premier Wen Jiabao directly, urging the Chinese leader to punish those involved in his case, to protect his family members, and to combat corruption, among other things.

About Chen Guangcheng

A self-taught legal activist, Chen Guangcheng became internationally known after he exposed widespread forced abortion and sterilisation practices by authorities in Linyi, in the name of implementing China’s population control policy.

Authorities retaliated, sentencing him in 2006 to more than four years in prison on charges of “damaging property and assembling a crowd to disrupt traffic” and Amnesty International considered him a prisoner of conscience.

Upon his release in September 2010, Chen Guangcheng and his family were immediately placed under illegal house arrest in his home village of Donshigu in Linyi County, Shangdong province.

Visitors attempting to see Chen while under house arrest told media they were beaten, robbed of their possessions, and driven away from the village with bags over their heads.

Last year, Chen and his wife were beaten by plainclothes officials in retribution for releasing video footage about the restrictive conditions of their house arrest.

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