BEIJING--The blind human rights activist in China who escaped from house arrest hid for 20 hours outside his village in Shandong province before a supporter arrived to pick him up.
Chen Guangcheng, 40, is now apparently under the protection of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Hu Jia, a 38-year-old fellow human rights activist who met Chen in Beijing, on April 28 revealed partial details of Chen's four-day escape. Hu, who is also under surveillance of the authorities, was escorted away by police later in the day.
Hu said he met Chen for about 70 minutes in Beijing in the middle of last week, although he declined to reveal the specific date, time and location of their reunion.
Chen had been under house arrest in Dongshigu village, Yinan county, Shandong province. Hu said Chen had been planning the escape for about three months.
Chen was in poor health, and he had blood in his stool. But late on the night of April 22, he sensed a weakness in the surveillance and climbed over a wall to get out of his house. He took advantage of an interval of just over 10 seconds when a watchman left to get water.
He waded across a river because he believed that guards might be checking bridges and at other strategic points. Hu said Chen fell down more than 200 times during his escape.
Once out of the village, Chen contacted his supporters, including He Peirong, a 40-year-old activist in Nanjing, Jiangsu province.
But Chen had never told her about his escape plan, Hu said. That is why he had to remain in hiding alone for more than 20 hours until He arrived to pick him up. Once in her car, they headed for Beijing about 600 kilometers away.
A Hong Kong newspaper said it took Chen three days to arrive in Beijing because he was being extra careful not to be spotted by authorities.
"My brother!" Chen and Hu called to each other as they hugged during their first reunion in seven and a half years. Tears spilled out, and they spoke no words for some time.
Both men have tried to change the human rights situation in China, leading to their imprisonments and house arrests.
The latest escape was not Chen's first attempt to flee from the stringent surveillance and oppression of public security authorities.
Earlier, Chen tried to escape by digging a 2-meter hole in his yard, but that attempt was frustrated when guards spotted it, Hu said.
Chen had been banned from telephone connections and Internet use. But in July last year, when lightning knocked out surveillance cameras, he dug out an old cellphone hidden in a desk, used dry cells to recharge it and called a supporter.
In a video message Chen released following his escape, he said that dozens to nearly 100 authority officials and hired watchmen encircled his home in many layers every day. The authorities often physically abused Chen and his wife, Yuan Weijing, he said. Three guards also accompanied their daughter to and from school and inspected the contents of his bag.
Hu said Yuan didn’t try to escape with her husband because she had not recovered from injuries suffered from the physical abuse of the authorities. Chen's concern about his family members is thought to partly account for his desire to remain in China.
"The success of Chen's miraculous escape is due 70 percent to his own conviction and efforts and 30 percent to the cooperation of supporters connected online," Hu said.
In the video message, Chen said local authorities continued to oppress him illegally because "they did not wish to settle the situation, afraid that their own crimes and corruption could come to light."
Hu was taken into custody by Beijing police on the evening of April 28, but was released and returned home on the night of April 29, sources said.
He Peirong has been unreachable since April 27. She is likely to have been detained by public security authorities.
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