Blind Chinese rights activist Chen Guangcheng [JURIST news archive] fled the guarded home where he was being kept under house arrest to the protection of US officials last week, reports said Friday. While the US embassy has not confirmed reports that Chen is at the embassy [BBC report], US-based rights group ChinaAid [advocacy website] has confirmed that the US is in "high-level talks" regarding the safety of Chen in a statement [text] released on Saturday. Chen's escape is expected to change US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's scheduled visit to Beijing next week as she has repeatedly called for his release. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] also commented on Chen's escape in a statement [text] released on Friday in which she expressed her concern for the family members of the activist who have been detained by Chinese officials. In a video posted online last week, Chen pleaded with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to keep his family safe:
Chen was placed under house arrest in 2010 after he was released from serving four years in prison [JURIST report] for damaging property and "organizing a mob to disturb traffic." After placing him under house arrest, Chinese authorities increased surveillance of his home and family, bringing into question the authenticity of his release [press release]. Family members alleged that Chen suffers from health problems caused by mistreatment he received while in prison, including beatings and repeated food poisonings [WP report]. Chen claims the charges were retribution for his documentation of forced sterilizations and abortions performed by Chinese officials to enforce China's one-child policy.