Activist Describes Chinese Dissident’s Escape to US Embassy

STR/AFP/GettyImages(BEIJING) -- Hu Jia, a fellow activist and friend of Chen Guangcheng, told ABC News that Chen's entry into the U.S. Embassy in Beijing was pre-arranged after it appeared the dissident had no other choice but to escape.

Hu, who met with Chen after his escape and was detained and questioned by Beijing police for 24 hours, recounted the tense hours that led up to Chen's transfer to U.S. officials.

Chen is still believed to be in the U.S. Embassy as officials from the U.S. and China attempt to work out a solution to the dissident's fate. U.S. officials in Washington and Beijing won't confirm whether Chen is at the embassy or under U.S. protection.

"The situation was very dangerous," Hu said. After the video was recorded, Hu, Guo Yushan, a Beijing-based writer and human rights advocate, and other unnamed activists came to the conclusion that it was no longer safe for Chen to stay within the underground network of safe houses that had sheltered him since his escape from his village in Shandong province. His supporters knew that Beijing police were aware Chen was in town.

"We felt them closing in," said Hu. "We feared we would no longer be able to protect him." Hu says there is only one place in Beijing that is safe; the U.S. Embassy.

It was then decided that one of his supporters would phone contacts at the U.S. Embassy to tell them Chen was coming in. Chen would be accompanied to the embassy and travel by car. According to Hu, the small group was pursued by unmarked Beijing police security vehicles and a brief car chase ensued. "[Chen] managed to escape the Shandong police but was almost caught by the Beijing police." Chen, Hu is certain, made it to the embassy just in time.

On Saturday Hu was taken into police custody. He said that while he was in detention the police told him that the actions of Chen, Guo Yushan, He Peirong (the young activist who tweeted that it was she who drove Chen to Beijing) and himself were not illegal.

Hu said that He Peirong has now been missing for 108 hours and counting; they have been unable to reach her by cellphone since she disappeared last Friday. There is no one at her home in Nanjing.

Hu emphasized that Chen sought refuge and not asylum but is now in a difficult position.

"The situation now is that if he steps out of the U.S. Embassy he will be arrested," says Hu. "If he seeks political asylum he cannot come back."

Hu, who has not had any contact with Chen since he went into detention himself, did outline a potential solution for Chen, China and the U.S. "Another option is for Chen and his family to go to the U.S. for 'medical treatment'. The Chinese government should give them passports and the U.S. Embassy should grant visas so that he can come back to China."

The best option, Hu believes, is what Chen appealed for in his direct plea to Premier Wen Jiabao. He is asking the government to admit the wrongful persecution of Chen Guangcheng and his family for the last seven years, guarantee the future safety of Chen and his family and prosecute those responsible for the abuses committed against Chen and his family.

He avoided the question of whether Chen's escape was timed to coincide with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's arrival in Beijing this week to attend the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

"Cheng Guangcheng was in a black jail, it was illegal. He had to escape, it was a matter of time," Hu said. "If he waited any longer he would die."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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