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BEIJING, May 2, 2012 ( – He Peirong is a beautiful, petite Chinese woman friends describe as having a “spine of steel” – one that proved an immense benefit to her friend, human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, whose bid for freedom she spearheaded.

But the young woman’s fate is now dangerously unknown, as she disappeared immediately after the last leg of her effort to get the forced-abortion opponent out of the government’s reach and into the U.S. Embassy last week.

Advocates say she has likely been kidnapped by Chinese officials, who are infamous for their brutal torture methods against those who defy the Communist regime.

Telling from Chen’s own treatment – which involved severe beatings, starvation, and imprisonment in his home for the past 19 months despite being officially charged with no crime – the lack of contact from He Peirong is highly alarming to advocates overseas.

Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, a U.S.-based advocacy group against forced abortions in China with deep connections to Chen’s community, said that Peirong has already suffered beatings and jailing for her efforts several times. But the success of the Embassy escape is likely to especially anger Chinese officials, as Littlejohn says it came about even while the Communisty Party was “clamp[ing] down on him as hard as it could.”

Somehow, Peirong managed to get Chen past 66 guards working in three shifts – 22 guards every eight hours – outside his house.  The village itself was sealed by another set of guards, and Chen, on top of being blind, seriously sick, and injured from beatings, had his phone, computer and television confiscated, cutting him off from the outside world.

Click “like” to join a Facebook page in support of Chen!

“According to Peirong, Chen spent months on his back, pretending to be near death, so that his guards would relax their vigilance,” Littlejohn said. “Then on April 22, with exquisite timing, he scaled a wall and ran for his life, taking several wrong turns and falling into a river because of his blindness.

“Peirong drove 20 hours to meet Chen and fooled the village guards into letting her in.  She disguised herself as a courier. Then she drove Chen another eight hours – still wet from his fall in the river – to safety in Beijing.

“Their plan was so masterfully executed that the authorities did not realize Chen was gone for four days.”

But as soon as the plan was realized, Littlejohn said the reprisals began: the Communists violently detained Chen’s older brother and nephew, and his wife, children and mother are also considered at risk.

Meanwhile, Littlejohn says as news broke of the escape she contacted Peirong, who said she was worried for her own safety. Hours later, she had vanished.

“At about 5:00 a.m. Dublin time, I skyped Peirong one last time and she did not answer. She had been detained, and no one has heard from her since,” said Littlejohn.

“We don’t know if Peirong is being tortured or whether her detention will last days, months or years.”

Littlejohn urged those concerned for Chen’s fate not to forget his rescuer.

“In pressing for Chen’s freedom, let us also press for the freedom of his rescuer, He Peirong, a hero in her own right,” said Littlejohn.

“She stood up for Chen during his time of greatest need.  The least we can do is stand by her as she pays a terrible price for her courage.”

Click here to contact the U.S. Embassy in China.

Click here to sign a petition to free Chen Guangcheng.


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