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I'm worried about my family, Chen Guangcheng tells RFI

media US Ambassador to China Gary Locke (L) talks on a mobile phone with blind … Reuters/Service de presse de l'ambassade des Etats-Unis à Pékin

Blind Chinese rights activist Chen Guangcheng is worried that authorities will persecute his family after his escape from house arrest, he told RFI on Wednesday. Chen, who is ina Beijing hospital after leaving the US embassy where he took refuge last week, says that his nephew is in custody and his brother has received threats.

“I’m really worried about them,” Chen told Judith Geng of RFI’s Mandarin service. “All I know about my family is that my nephew is under detention and my older brother has received a lot of threats but doesn’t dare talk.”

None of his friends have been able to visit him, he says, and nor have representatives of the US embassy, apart from a doctor who came to the hospital on 4 May.

The Chinese authorities have promised that Chen can apply to leave the country to study in the US and he says that officials have told him that the necessary steps will be taken “but I don’t know how soon”.

The self-trained lawyer was jailed for four years in 2006 for exposing forced sterilisation and abortions in Shangdong province as part of China’s “one-child” population control policy. He was released in 2010 and placed under house arrest.

On 22 April he escaped house arrest and took refuge in the US embassy before being taken to hospital after the authorities guaranteed his safety.

“Heaven helped me [escape]!” he told RFI, saying that 60 agents spied on his home but “I slipped through the net without them noticing”.

Chen says that he wants to “take a break” after “seven years of incessant struggle in an extremely difficult situation” but that he is also demanding an inquiry into officials in Shangdong province “whatever their positions and no matter how many they are” and compensation for the persecution he says he has undergone.

An article in the English-language edition of the official Global Times newspaper on Wednesday accused “overseas forces” of exploiting Chen’s case to “demonise China”.

“Chen didn’t realise he was being used and his case being hyped into a national political issue,” author Liu Yang wrote. “How can they be so cruel as to use a disabled person in their political games?”

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