Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng left the US embassy in Beijing only after threats his family would be immediately returned to house arrest, a close friend has said.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, had earlier said that the handling of his stay and departure “reflected his choices and our values”, adding that China had offered him understandings he could pursue higher education in a safe environment.
“Making these commitments a reality is the next crucial task,” added Clinton, who arrived in Beijing on Wednesday. Chen also told his lawyer that he had “received clear assurances”.
But supporters have expressed concern about whether his safety could be protected if he remained in China and Zeng Jinyan, a friend of Chen, said he told her in a phone call that he needed her help.
In Twitter messages – which she confirmed were genuine – Zeng said the “barefoot lawyer” left the embassy because he was told his wife, Yuan Weijing, and their children would otherwise be returned to eastern Shandong province, where authorities have harassed them for years. The couple are believed to have been badly beaten by the guards keeping them under house arrest in Dongshigu. . .