May 7, 2012
The woman who risked her life to drive blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng from his village to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing was released from detention, ASSIST News Service reports. He "Pearl" Peirong, a former English teacher, disguised herself as a courier to enter Chen's village, then rescued him after he escaped house arrest, climbed over walls and forded a river. "I am relieved and delighted that Pearl has been released," said Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, who had advocated for Pearl's release at a congressional hearing, leading Rep. Chris Smith to take up her cause. "Some say that quiet, back-door diplomacy is the way to deal with the detention of Chinese human rights defenders. But human rights activists have found that high-profile, public pressure is far more effective." Pearl told the BBC she was confined in a hotel room, where police were "polite" but persistent in their effort to obtain information. "I was very concerned, but once the thing went public, I was no longer worried," she said. Chen, meanwhile, is confident Beijing will hold up its end of a tentative deal to let him travel to the U.S. with his family to study at a U.S. university where he has been offered a fellowship.