2 May 2012

Chinese dissident leaves US embassy

8:52 pm on 2 May 2012

Prominent Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng has left the United States embassy in Beijing, where he had sought shelter.

State news agency Xinhua said that he left "of his own volition" on Wednesday. A US official said he had been taken to a medical facility in Beijing.

The blind dissident escaped from hour arrest six days ago, but neither side had confirmed he was at the US embassy until now.

The announcement came as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in China on Wednesday for high-level annual talks , the BBC reports.

Mr Chen's case threatened to overshadow the two-day talks, which begin on Thursday, and had been due to focus on issues including Syria, trade issues and human rights.

The US ambassador to Beijing, Gary Locke, telephoned The Washington Post to say he had Mr Chen in his car and was taking him to a medical facility.

A correspondent for the newspaper said he had spoken to Mr Chen, who had said he was fine.

Another statement from Xinhua, citing the foreign ministry, demanded an apology from the US for sheltering a Chinese citizen.

The statement said the activist had been brought into the embassy through "abnormal means" and called it an unacceptable interference in China's domestic affairs.

In 2010, Chen Guangcheng was placed under house arrest after spending more than four years in jail for disrupting traffic and damaging property.

He had campaigned against forced late-term abortions and sterilisations carried out in Linyi city, Shandong province, as local officials enforced China's one-child policy. He escaped from house arrest in late April.