The U.S. State Department has declined to confirm or deny reports out of China that activist Chen Guangcheng, known as the barefoot lawyer, is hiding in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
"I don't have anything for you on that subject," State Spokesman Toria Nuland told reporters. When pressed, Nuland confirmed the Department has expressed concerns for the blind activist in the past, but she didn't "have anything current on this issue today."
Chen Guangcheng, who has been blind since childhood, escaped from house arrest Sunday. He then proceeded to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, where he is currently in hiding, fellow activist Hu Jia confirmed.
There has been no official confirmation of his location by the U.S. government, but Hu's wife released a photo of the two men on Twitter reportedly taken since Chen's escape.
A long-time activist and outspoken critic of the Communist government, Chen had been under house arrest for two years when he escaped Sunday. He was previously imprisoned from 2006 to 2010 after acting on behalf of women who were forced to have abortions or be sterilized under China's One Child Policy.
In a video posted to U.S.-based Chinese dissident website Boxun, Chen appealed directly to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao for answers to Chinese local cadre corruption. He also asked Wen to ensure his family would not be harmed during his absence and asked for him to investigate recent beatings of him and his family by local cadres.
"Those who ordered county-level police and officials to break into my house, beat and hurt me, refused me medical attention...whoever made the decision has to be investigated and punished according to law. Their actions are so cruel it has greatly harmed the image of the Communist Party," Chen said, according to a translation by a Chinese blogger.
He added, "Premier Wen, all those illegal actions have baffled many people -- is it just local officials flagrantly violating the law or do they have the support of the central government? I hope you will give the public a clear answer in the near future."
by RTT Staff Writer
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