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Activist pleads for US help to leave China

Activist Chen Guangcheng told AFP on Thursday he did not feel safe in China despite assurances made under a deal to remove him from the US embassy, pleading for American help to take him abroad.

"I want to go overseas. I want the US to help me and my family leave China," Chen said by phone from a Beijing hospital where he is being treated for a foot injury suffered during a daring escape from house arrest on April 22.

"I don't feel safe here. I want to leave."

Chen, who riled Chinese authorities by exposing forced abortions and sterilisations under the "one-child" population control policy, fled his heavily guarded eastern China home and gained refuge in the US embassy, where he demanded assurances on his freedom.

He left the embassy Wednesday and was reunited with family members at the hospital after the US said it had received "assurances" from China that he would be safe from reprisals.

But US-based rights group China Aid has said Chen had "reluctantly" left the embassy and that it had been told by "reliable sources" that Beijing had made threats against his relatives over the affair.

Chen said he did not initially want to seek asylum overseas but changed his mind Wednesday after emerging from the embassy amid concern for his safety and that of his family.

"I did not make the final decision at the US embassy, I made it yesterday. I don't think the US is protecting me," he said.

Chen said he had not yet spoken to any Chinese officials about his situation and believed the hospital would not allow him to leave even if he wanted to.

He said he broke his right foot during his highly unlikely escape from smothering security at his home in Shandong province, where he and his family had been under round-the-clock surveillance since his 2010 release from prison.

Chen was jailed on what supporters have called trumped-up charges brought by local officials angry over his activism.

He has accused those officials of persistent physical abuses and threats against himself and his family.

"God helped me escape. God helped me," he said.

sai-dma/jw

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