CNN spoke with Chen Guangcheng from his hospital room in Beijing
The blind activist said he fears for his life if he stays in China
Chen said he was "disappointed" with the U.S. embassy
Couple appeals to the U.S. to protect them, get them out of China
Editor’s Note: CNN spoke with Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng and his wife Yuan Weijing from his Beijing hospital room just before 3 a.m. (3 p.m. ET) on Thursday May 3, hours after he left the U.S. embassy of his own volition to seek medical care. This is an English translation of a phone interview conducted in Mandarin.
Chen Guangcheng, activist
Q: Why did you change your mind about staying in China?
A: I think it’s time for me to make such a choice.
A: For safety.
Q: Fear for your life or your family’s?
Q: What would happen if you stay in China?
A: Anything could happen.
Q: U.S. officials said you looked optimistic when you walked out of the embassy, what happened?
A: At the time I didn’t have a lot of information. I wasn’t allowed to call my friends from inside the embassy. I couldn’t keep up with news so I didn’t know a lot of things that were happening.
Q: What prompted your change of heart?
A: The embassy kept lobbying me to leave and promised to have people stay with me in the hospital. But this afternoon as soon as I checked into the hospital room, I noticed they were all gone.
Q: Has the U.S. disappointed you?
A: I’m very disappointed at the U.S. government.
A: I don’t think (U.S. officials) protected human rights in this case.
Q: What would you say to U.S. President Obama?
A: I would like to say to (President Obama): Please do everything you can to get our whole family out.
Q: Is this your most urgent wish?
A: That’s right.
Q: What has your wife told you after you escaped?
A: (My wife) was tied to a chair by police for two days. Then they carried sticks to our home, threatening to beat her to death. Now they have moved into the house – eating at our table and using our stuff. Our home is teeming with security – on the roof and in the yard. They have installed seven surveillance cameras inside the house and built electric fences around the yard.
Q: What did officials tell her if you didn’t leave the embassy?
A: They said they would send her back (to Shandong) and people there would beat her.
Q: If you stay in China, is there no future?
A: I tend to think so.
Q: You learned most information in the hospital after you left the embassy?
A: Yes, most of it.
Q: Are your wife and kids with you?
A: Yes. I just switched my cell phone back on. For a while, I couldn’t make or receive calls. Now I can receive calls but still can’t dial out. I feel my rights are already being violated.
Q: Is it true no one from the embassy picked up your calls?
A: Yes. I called two embassy people numerous times.
Q: What do you want to say to the U.S. government?
A: I want them to protect human rights through concrete actions. We are in danger. If you can talk to Hillary (Clinton), I hope she can help my whole family leave China.
Q: As soon as possible?
A: Yes, as soon as possible.
Q: The whole world is watching you – how do you feel about this?
A: I feel very grateful. I feel they are sincere in their concern, not just for show.
Q: Do you feel you were lied to by the embassy?
A: I feel a little like that.
Q: What has this ordeal taught you?
A: I feel everyone focuses too much on their self-interest at the expense of their credibility.
Q: You’re both still up at 3 a.m. – feeling anxious?
A: Yes, we feel a lot of anxiety…. I told the embassy I would like to talk to Rep. Smith (Congressman Chris Smith) but they somehow never managed to arrange it. I feel a little puzzled.
Yuan Weijing, Chen Guangcheng’s wife
Q: What do you want right now?
A: After seeing the reality, we both want to leave this place with our kids as soon as possible. It’s very dangerous for us.
Q: Has the situation gotten worse since his escape?
A: Yes, worse.
Q: What happened to you after he escaped – where is his mother?
A: She’s still back home and others have moved in. It used to be plainclothes security hired locally but now it’s all policemen. They’ve threatened to cut our power. They are also digging something outside our yard. It seems that they’ll install something there.
Q: What happened when they took you into custody after his escape?
A: They wanted to know how exactly he escaped. Guangcheng is blind and we hired so many guards, how did we lose him and what exactly would he do once he was out?
Q: Is China the kind of country you want to bring your children up?
A: After Guangcheng got out, the government was persuading me to stay here. But they were also tightening their grip on me. I became really worried. If they ever get us back home, they would put us in an iron cage.
Q: What would you say to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?
A: I know Sino-U.S. relations encompass many issues and they have to consider many things. But the reality about my family is that our lives are in obvious danger. If we stay here or get sent back to Shandong, our lives would be at stake. Under such circumstances, I hope the U.S. government will protect us and help us leave China based on its value of protecting human rights.
Q: Are you prepared for not being allowed back?
A: We are prepared because our current situation is very dangerous… They made many promises. But right now, we can’t even freely use our phone. I can’t even freely walk out of the hospital. Friends can’t visit us. It just proves that our human rights are not being protected.
Q: Are there people watching you at the hospital?
A: They have security guards here.
Q: Have the embassy people have left?
A: Yes. They promised to stay here with Guangcheng – that would give us some sense of security. But we haven’t seen anyone since we checked into this hospital room. I was actually persuading Guangcheng to seek treatment in a hospital – but I didn’t know the embassy (people) were lobbying him to leave (the embassy).