China dissident Chen says wants to leave for U.S.

BEIJING Thu May 3, 2012 7:08am IST

A handout photo from US Embassy Beijing Press office shows blind activist Chen Guangcheng (2nd L) shaking hands with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell (2nd R) as they stand with U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke (C), in Beijing, May 2, 2012. REUTERS/US Embassy Beijing Press Office/Handout

A handout photo from US Embassy Beijing Press office shows blind activist Chen Guangcheng (2nd L) shaking hands with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell (2nd R) as they stand with U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke (C), in Beijing, May 2, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/US Embassy Beijing Press Office/Handout

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng wants to leave for the United States rather than stay in China, telling Reuters his safety cannot be assured under a U.S.-China deal that had persuaded him to give up refuge in the U.S. embassy in Beijing.

Chen left the embassy on Wednesday, where he had taken refuge for six days after escaping house arrest, appearing to be satisfied with a diplomatic solution which would have allowed he and his family to remain in China in better circumstances.

But Chen told Reuters on Thursday by phone from a Beijing hospital, where he was escorted by U.S. officials after leaving the embassy, that he had changed his mind after speaking to his wife.

Asked whether he now wished to stay in China or leave for the United States, Chen said: "Now I want to do the latter. That's what I hope."

"There are many reasons and considerations. The main one is that my rights and safety cannot be assured here," he added.

Chen, citing descriptions from his wife Yuan Weijing, said his family had been surrounded by Chinese officials who menaced them and inundated the family home.

"When I was inside the American embassy, I didn't have my family, and so I didn't understand some things. After I was able to meet them, my ideas changed."

Chen said he had still not had an opportunity to explain his changed ideas to U.S. officials.

"I hope the U.S. will help me leave immediately. I want to go there for medical treatment," he said.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by John Mair and Mark Bendeich)

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