In the picture: Chen Guangcheng

Chen Guangcheng in a wheelchair pushed by a nurse at the Chaoyang hospital in Beijing (Getty)

The blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng had been under home arrest for 19 months until last week, when he escaped, took shelter at the US embassy, and appealed in a video for Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, to intervene on his behalf.

Mr Chen left the US embassy on Wednesday for a Beijing hospital as part of a deal brokered by the US. But within hours confusion was surrounding that deal and Mr Chen was telling news agencies he wanted to leave China.

Read about it in the FT:

  • Mr Chen’s dramatic night-time escape came just weeks after Wang Lijun, the former police chief of Chongqing, attempted to defect to the US. When Wang ran away to the US embassy in Chengdu, he set off investigations that led to the downfall of Bo Xilai and raised a number of questions about political reform in China.
  • Mr Chen’s escape has also prompted a number of questions about diplomatic relations between the US and China as Geoff Dyer, our US diplomatic correspondent pointed out.
  • The FT’s Asia editor, David Pilling, muses on Mr Chen’s blindness and heroism – and the threat he poses to the authoritarian Chinese regime as a result. Previously, he also wondered whether the US might be well served by some pop-up embassies around China.
  • Blinded by a fever at a young age, Mr Chen did not start primary school until he was 18. This all makes his career path, first as a career, then as a lawyer and activist, all the more impressive.
  • The FT correspondents discuss the ramifications of the stituation in this week’s World Weekly podcast.

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