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Blind Chinese activist unsure about departure date for U.S.

2012/05/08 22:46:53

Taipei, May 8 (CNA) Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese human rights activist who escaped house arrest last month, said Tuesday that he is unsure when he will leave for the United States, but has received assurances from officials that he will be able to make the trip.

In a telephone interview with the Taiwan Public Television Service, Chen scotched a rumor that he would be leaving for New York May 11, saying that he "had yet to receive a passport" and did not know about the progress of his passport application.

However, he said he has received permission from the central government to study in the United States and that officials have promised that he will be issued with a passport.

Chen said he wanted to go to the U.S. to take a rest and return to school.

"I have been living in darkness for the past seven years, facing cruel and shameful treatment each day," said Chen.

"I feel like I need a rest. I have been imprisoned for the past seven years, and my knowledge is lagging behind. It is time to renew it," he added.

When asked by a talk show host if he is still optimistic about the future of human rights development in China, Chen said "yes, certainly."

"It is the inevitable result of social development. Chinese citizens are maturing and their civil awareness is growing fast," said Chen.

He said he expects to see political reforms during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's term because he "has felt" during meetings with China's leaders that they want to change.

With regard to crackdowns on corruption, Chen said he "feels that things are starting to change, albeit at a slow pace."

"It could speed up if more people paid closer attention to it," said Chen.

As for his health, Chen said he has three broken bones in his legs and is confined to bed, but he added that the rectal bleeding from which he was also suffering has been brought under control.

"My condition is not very serious. I thank the Taiwanese people very much for the attention they have given me," said the 41-year-old.

He said his escape and the shelter provided by the United States might seem like a "diplomatic problem," but is in fact "a humanitarian problem about whether to save a person in mortal danger."

The activist thanked the U.S. government for its assistance, but also the Chinese government for what he called its "calm" and "controlled" handling of the issue.

He urged Wen and Chinese President Hu Jintao to speed up social reform to ensure greater equality in society.

Chen, a lawyer, escaped from house arrest in Shandong Province April 22 and made his way to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing a few days later. He left the embassy May 2 for medical treatment.

He has since expressed a wish to go to the U.S., citing concerns for the safety of his family if he remains in China.

He was held prisoner for more than four years for organizing a class-action lawsuit against the government for forcing women to have abortions under China's one-child policy.

(By Christie Chen)