BEIJING — A Chinese activist who triggered a diplomatic dispute between China and the United States said Monday he is confident that Beijing will hold up its end of a tentative deal to let him study overseas.
Chen Guangcheng is a blind, self-taught legal activist who made a daring escape from brutal house arrest in his rural town into U.S. diplomatic custody in Beijing more than a week ago, setting off a diplomatic standoff. Under still-evolving arrangements announced Friday by Washington and Beijing, Chen may be able to leave to study in the United States.
“Since the Chinese government has promised to safeguard my constitutionally provided rights and freedom and safety, I feel that they will fulfill their commitments because it is after all an agreement between two countries,” Chen said.
Chen sounded more relaxed and optimistic than on Friday morning before details of the deal were announced, when he told The Associated Press that he was in a “dangerous situation” because he had not been able to meet with American officials for two days.
The activist, who is in a Beijing hospital where he was taken to receive medical care and was joined by his wife and two children, said he has asked hospital staff to help him with the paperwork for him and his family to obtain travel documents.
“I entrusted the hospital with telling the relevant people or department that I have asked them to handle it on my behalf, because I am lying on the bed and I can’t move and my friends can’t come and see me, so what can I do? I can only ask them,” he said.
Chen suffered three broken bones in his foot when he was escaping from his rural village, a journey that involved scaling walls and making his way through fields and a forest, then being chased by security agents in Beijing. His foot is now in a cast.
Later Monday, U.S.-funded radio broadcaster Voice of America reported that Chen’s nephew Chen Kegui had been detained as part of a criminal investigation into a clash he had with officials in the Chen family’s village of Dongshigu in Shandong.
Several officials reportedly broke into Chen Kegui’s home last Thursday after discovering his uncle had fled house arrest. Chen Kegui brandished knives and slashed at them, inflicting injuries, according to an earlier local government statement.
Chen Guangcheng told the AP that his nephew had acted in self-defense after officials jumped over the wall and broke into his family’s courtyard in the middle of the night armed with wooden sticks.
He said he was told that Liu Weiguo, a Shandong lawyer who volunteered to represent Chen Kegui, had been threatened not to take the case and had his movements restricted by authorities. Liu’s cellphone was turned off and he could not be reached Monday.
Chen said he was also concerned that his nephew might be mistreated by police while in custody.
“I am extremely worried my nephew will be subjected to severe torture in their hands,” Chen said.
Authorities have prevented American officials as well as Chen’s friends and supporters from visiting him in the hospital. Still, U.S. officials have spoken to Chen by phone every day, including Monday.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview with NBC television’s “Meet the Press” broadcast Sunday that he believes Chen’s future is in the United States. Biden said U.S. officials “expect the Chinese to stick to that commitment.”
As part of the deal, China’s Foreign Ministry said Friday that Chen can apply for travel permits to study abroad. Chen has an invitation to study at New York University.
Chen, 40, spent most of the last seven years in prison or under house arrest in what was seen as retribution by local authorities for his activism against forced abortions and other official misdeeds. His wife, daughter and mother were confined at home with him, enduring beatings, searches and other mistreatment.
His escape from house arrest to the fortress-like U.S. Embassy last week put Washington at the center of a sensitive human rights case. It also came just days before Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner arrived in Beijing for high-level talks on trade tensions and global economic and political trouble spots.
Associated Press writer Alexa Olesen contributed to this report.