NEW YORK, May 30, 2012 ( – Blind Chinese forced-abortion opponent Chen Guangcheng told CNN last week of his severe maltreatment at the hands of Chinese officials, saying the condition of his illegal detainment was “beyond imagination” – words that CNN’s viewers in China were able to hear.

Chen, who flew to America this week after his dramatic escape from oppression in his home village, told CNN that it was hard to describe the abuse he suffered there, which had included severe beatings and lack of access to medical attention despite injuries and illness.

“It’s hard for me to describe what it was like during that time. But let’s just say that my suffering was beyond imagination,” Chen said.


He also described his relief at being able to experience the pleasures of freedom.

“I haven’t been able to feel (nature) for a long time,” said Chen. “I had some time to soak in the sun and feel the breeze. I just felt I hadn’t been able to do that in so long. I have missed out for too long. “

The blind lawyer objected to calling his recent situation “house arrest,” since he had not been charged with a crime during the 19 months he was forced to stay in his home. “When we talk about my situation, in the future, let’s not use the word house arrest, but instead let’s use the term illegal detention,” he said.

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Prior to the interview, CNN’s Anderson Cooper encouraged viewers to keep an eye on its live broadcast in China, represented at the bottom of the screen: “We’re showing it to you because, in the past, when we have reported on Mr. Chen, the Chinese government has cut off our live transmission. They have censored us. So as you watch this interview, you can also watch to see if China will censor or broadcast yet again.”

The broadcast also highlighted the incident last year when actor Christian Bale, accompanied by CNN camera crews, attempted to visit Chen in his village only to be roughed up and driven away by guards.

Chen, who drew down the ire of the Chinese government for filing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of forced-abortion victims, said that he was surprised that China “would disregard the law so blatantly” after he was arrested and jailed for four years on sham charges.

Chen reiterated his concern for his family members, and expressed gratitude for friends who have heroically fought to claim responsibility for Chen’s escape to protect others.

“When a group of people come together and accomplish something, they often fight for credit. But in my case, all those people who went to Shandong to pick me, up when the news broke they were fighting for risk and not credit,” he said. “They were all trying to claim responsibility to make others safer. I think this shows me hope in the growth of civil society in China.”

Cooper concluded the interview noting, “Interesting to see we were not censored this time in China.”

Chen is slated to give a speech at the Council for Foreign Relations in Manhattan on Thursday.


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