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China’s Foreign Ministry and police and government officials in Chen’s home town either refused comment or did not answer telephone calls.

Police detained He, the blogger, who earlier Friday told The Associated Press that she had driven Chen from Dongshigu village on Sunday night out of Shandong province to “a relatively safe place.” She handed him to another activist, who on Friday called Bob Fu, a Texas-based activist who runs the China Aid Association, to say that he was about to be arrested but that Chen already was safe. Civil rights lawyer Li Fangping said state security agents questioned him Friday about Chen.

In Dongshigu, where authorities have posted surveillance cameras and checkpoints since Chen’s release in 2010, local officials swarmed his brother’s home on Thursday, activists said, detaining the brother and his son after a violent scuffle. The county government, however, said the nephew remained at large and is wanted for assault.

In the video, Chen called on the premier, seen by many Chinese as a reformer, to punish those responsible.

“Including party leaders, police and other civilians, around 90 to 100 people have been involved in the persecution of my family. I hereby request to you, Premier Wen, to start an investigation into this case,” Chen said.

Much about how Chen eluded his usually vigilant captors remains untold. “Obviously, he got some inside help,” said Fu, the Texas activist.

His escape seemed to go unnoticed for several days. A Washington-based activist blogger quoted Chen’s nephew, Chen Kegui, as saying he heard his family members whispering that “Guangcheng’s gone” on Thursday morning, according to a transcript provided by the writer, Cao Yaxue.

On Thursday night, Zhang Jian, chief of the town that oversees Dongshigu, led local officials to scale the wall surrounding a house belonging to the activists’ relatives and his nephew, Chen Kegui, confronted them with a long vegetable knife, according to Cao and He.

Chen Kegui wounded Zhang and other officials, their accounts said. Chen and his father were detained by paramilitary police with electric batons while troops surrounded the family compound, Fu said.

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Associated Press writers Isolda Morillo in Beijing and Mat Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.