Blind Activist Chen Guangcheng Gives First Interview Since Arriving in U.S.

Michael Ireland | ASSIST News Service | Saturday, May 26, 2012

Blind Activist Chen Guangcheng Gives First Interview Since Arriving in U.S.

Photo: Chen Guangcheng and family (courtesy ChinaAid)

NEW YORK (ANS) -- Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng told CNN, in his first in-depth TV interview since his dramatic escape from house arrest, about his departure from China and his continuing concern for family and friends he left behind.

He also spoke about tasting freedom recently.

Chen Guangcheng spoke with CNN’s Anderson Cooper about his daring escape from house arrest, and concern for his family and friends who are still in China, in an interview on the Anderson Cooper 360° program Thursday.

Chen told CNN: "I haven't been able to feel [nature] for a long time."

Chen, who is blind, said: "I had some time to soak in the sun and feel the breeze. I just felt I hadn't been able to do that in so long. I have missed out for too long."

Asked about speaking out against China, he said: "It was natural for me, it was very natural for me. I feel it's in people's nature to want to stop evil and embrace the good."

His experience being under house arrest in China, he said, brought much suffering.

"I want to correct one thing here," Chen said. In the future, he continued, "let's not use the word 'house arrest' but instead let's use the term 'illegal detention.' It's hard for me to describe what it was like during that time. But let's just say that my suffering was beyond imagination."

Chen made his comments Thursday morning in an exclusive with CNN's Anderson Cooper, airing in Primetime Thursday night.

Chen's arrival in the United States on Saturday brought an end to a diplomatic firestorm between Beijing and Washington that erupted after he escaped from house arrest in the Shandong province, according to an online article at CNN’s webpage.

Chen, 40, and his wife and children are in the United States for Chen to study at New York University under a fellowship.

Chen told CNN that he and his wife were beaten periodically in China.

"Yes, it was beyond everybody's imagination," Chen said. "But I don't want to talk about it right now."

In the CNN interview, five days after arriving in the United States, Chen said he was still gathering his thoughts about his escape.

"After evading danger and the obstacles, I was able to get out of Dongshigu village [his home town] and then I called my good friend Guo Yushan in Beijing.

"He quickly led a team to find me and drove me to Beijing. I was able to talk extensively with him during the journey and found out what had been going on in the outside world. So Mr. Guo played a very important role in this process," Chen said.

Though staying in a safe place in Beijing, he began to worry about his safety, he said. He was also getting treatment for a foot injury. He then came up with a safer place to stay, he said.

Chen noted how acquaintances in China helped him.

"There's one thing I want to mention that may be a surprise to many people," Chen said.

"When a group of people come together and accomplish something, they often fight for credit.” He added: “In my case, all those people who went to Shandong to pick me up, when the news broke, they were fighting for risk instead of credit. They were all trying to claim responsibility to make others safer."

On Saturday, the activist indicated through a translator that the U.S. government granted him partial citizenship rights. He asked people to work with him to "promote justice and fairness in China."

Chen also said he was looking forward to recuperating in "body and spirit."

Michael Ireland is the senior international correspondent for ANS. He is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB UK, a British Christian radio station. While in the UK, Michael traveled to Canada and the United States, Albania,Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany,and Czechoslovakia. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China and Russia.

c. 2012 ASSIST News Service. Used with permission.

Publication date: May 25, 2012

Blind Activist Chen Guangcheng Gives First Interview Since Arriving in U.S.