Chinese activist who fled house arrest lands in U.S.

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Chen gained recognition for crusading for the disabled and for farmers’ rights and fighting against forced abortions in his rural community. That angered local officials, who seemed to wage a personal vendetta against him, convicting him in 2006 on what his supporters say were fabricated charges and then holding him for the past 20 months in illegal house arrest.

Even with the backstage negotiations, Chen’s departure came hastily. Chen spent the last 2 1/2 weeks in a hospital for the foot he broke escaping house arrest. Only on Wednesday did Chinese authorities help him complete the paperwork needed for his passport.

Chen said by telephone Saturday that he was informed at the hospital just before noon to pack his bags to leave. Officials did not give him and his family passports or inform them of their flight details until after they got to the airport.

Seeming ambivalent, Chen said that he was “not happy” about leaving and that he had a lot on his mind, including worries about retaliation against his extended family back home. His nephew, Chen Kegui, is accused of attempted murder after he allegedly used a kitchen knife to attack officials who stormed his house after discovering Chen Guangcheng was missing.

“I hope that the government will fulfill the promises it made to me, all of its promises,” Chen said. Such promises included launching an investigation into abuses against him and his family in Shandong province, he said before the phone call was cut off.

Much as Chen has said he wants return to China, it remains uncertain whether the Chinese government would bar him, as they have done with many exiled activists.

Chen’s departure for the U.S. does not and should not in any way mark a ‘mission accomplished’ moment for the U.S. government,” said Phelim Kine, a senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The harder, longer-term part is ensuring his right under international law to return to China when he sees fit.”

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Tang and Wong reported from Beijing. Associated Press videojournalist Annie Ho and writer Charles Hutzler in Beijing contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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