UK & World News
Blind China Activist Gives Government The Slip
A blind Chinese legal activist has escaped from house arrest and is in hiding, according to his supporters.
Chen Guangcheng, who is severely visually impaired and walks with a cane, has been under close surveillance for nearly two years.
His home in the town of Dongshigu in eastern China was watched day and night by security guards and local officials, and Mr Chen and his family were allowed only limited contact with the outside world.
It is believed he managed to slip away last Sunday and is now in Beijing at an undisclosed location.
Local officials apparently only became aware of his escape on Thursday.
In a video released on a Chinese-language website based outside China, and therefore not subject to the government's online censorship, Mr Chen claims that both he and his wife were severely beaten by officials, and then denied medical treatment.
"I'm free now, but I'm also very worried," he said in the 15-minute video.
"My wife, mother and child are still in their evil hands.
"They may take insane revenge on them now that I've fled."
Mr Chen also said: "They hit my wife in the eye and it still hasn't healed.
"They wrapped her in a duvet and beat and kicked her back... Even now we can feel the broken bones."
Mr Chen came to prominence in 2005 after exposing the fact that thousands of people in his home province of Shandong had been forced to undergo surgical sterilisation and abortions by government officials.
As a result of his activism, he was sentenced to four years in prison for "damaging property and organising a mob to disturb traffic".
During Mr Chen's trial, his lawyers were denied access to the courtroom.
His conviction caused an international outcry.
After his release in 2010, Mr Chen was placed under "soft detention" in his home.
Journalists and diplomats who attempted to visit were turned away.
When actor Christian Bale tried to meet Mr Chen last year he was barred from entry and roughed up by security guards.
Rumours on Chinese internet sites suggested Mr Chen may have taken sanctuary in the US Embassy in Beijing.
An American official refused to comment.
But one of Mr Chen's supporters says that he is now in a "100% safe location", leading many to suspect he has been given asylum inside a foreign embassy.
The video released on Friday - apparently filmed after Mr Chen's release - gives no indication of his location.
Instead, Mr Chen directly addresses Chinese premier Wen Jiabao.
He asks Mr Wen to ensure that the men who beat him and his wife be punished, that the safety of his family be guaranteed, and that local government corruption be investigated.