BEIJING — Blind activist Chen Guangcheng, in a telephone interview early Friday, said he voluntarily left the U.S. Embassy in Beijing to see his family and get treatment at a nearby hospital, but he said the Chinese government so far is not honoring an agreement to fully restore his freedom and allow American diplomats in to see him.
“I left the U.S. Embassy on my own free will,” Chen told a Washington Post news assistant who reached him by telephone shortly after midnight. “I wasn’t tricked into leaving. If I didn’t want to leave, I could have stayed, and no one would have forced me to leave.”
Chen said he left the embassy to be reunited with his wife and children at the hospital. “The U.S. Embassy helped me a lot,” Chen said. “I really appreciate their help. They did a good job. But I don’t think the Chinese side is obeying the agreement well.”
“My biggest wish right now is that the agreement concerning me is fulfilled well,” Chen told the Post. “The agreement includes more than three points, including the U.S. side being able to visit me regularly, and China should guarantee my rights as a citizen.”
“I didn’t have a chance to see the U.S. officials today,” Chen said, referring to Thursday. “We had phone conversations, but they were quite short. We didn’t discuss real issues on the phone.” U.S. officials on Thursday expressed frustration that American diplomats, along with an American doctor, had been prevented from visiting Chen in the hospital.
Chen also expressed concern for his extended family members left behind in Linyi city, in eastern Shandong province. He said armed thugs have now taken over his farmhouse in Dongshigu village, and he was concerned about his mother and brother, with whom he has not been able to speak.
“The situation in my home is still really terrible,” Chen said. “So I don’t think the agreement is being fulfilled well by the Chinese side.”
Chen said he was visited at the hospital by a Chinese official with the last name who said he was a representative from the Communist Party central committee. “He asked me the situation in my hometown and clearly expressed that they are going to investigate,” Chen said. “I want to believe him. But at the same time, I need to observe what they do in the end.” He added, “I can’t judge yet.”
The conversation lasted about 15 minutes, and Chen sounded relaxed, cheerful and full of energy — a sharp contrast to earlier interviews on Thursday when he was reported to have sounded frightened. He said he was being treated well at Chaoyang hospital and that he and his family received three meals, all on time. He said he, his wife and two children were together in one room and that no one was there watching over them.
Chen said he is still recovering from a cracked bone he suffered from climbing over a wall during his dramatic escape from house arrest on April 22. He also said he received a colonoscopy and a biopsy Thursday and was awaiting the results. He said he hoped that his wife, Yuan Weijing, can also get a full medical exam because she received scars from brutal beatings at the hands of local thugs in their home village.
Chen said he would like to travel to the United States, but only temporarily, to rest and perhaps study. But he said he did not want to remain in the United States permanently — and he chastised journalists who he said had misinterpreted his words. “Many reporters misquoted me, and even wrote things I never said,” Chen told The Post.
“It’s not a one-time-only decision,” Chen said of his desire to leave China for the United States. “It doesn’t mean I won’t come back. As a free person, I believe I am endowed with the right to leave China when I want to and come back anytime I want.”
“In the past seven years, I didn’t have a real weekend,” Chen said. “I was very stressed. I want to relax. I want to rest more. Maybe I will study something there because in the past seven years, I didn’t have chance to enrich my knowledge.”
He said he also wanted to continue “to promote social progress and judiciary system improvement in China.”
“The society must become more and more fair in the future,” Chen said. “It’s just a matter of time. It depends on how many people make efforts, and how big the efforts we make.”
Washington Post researcher Zhang Jie in Beijing contributed to this report.