Fugitive Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, who pulled off a daring escape from house arrest, was likely holed up in the US embassy in Beijing, another top dissident said Saturday.
If true, the embassy's acceptance of the blind lawyer could prove a diplomatic irritant just as China and the United States are preparing for wide-ranging annual talks on their often testy relationship.
With Washington refusing to comment on his whereabouts, outspoken government critic Hu Jia, who is close to Chen, told AFP that those involved in spiriting Chen to safety had chosen a "100 percent safe" location.
"What location could be more safe than the US embassy?" he said. "I believe he is safe at the embassy."
Hu declined to offer further details backing that belief in order to protect those involved in helping Chen.
Chen, 40, a self-taught lawyer, escaped from house arrest in the eastern province of Shandong in recent days, and subsequently recorded a alleging he had been viciously beaten and voicing concern for his wife and son.
The departments of State and Treasury also abruptly postponed a briefing that had been scheduled to preview the Beijing meetings.
Nuland said the State Department has voiced concerns in the past over the activist, who ran afoul of authorities after documenting abuses in China's one-child policy.
"We have always had concerns about this case," Nuland said.
China's state-controlled media has made no mention of Chen's escape.
Chen has won worldwide acclaim for exposing forced sterilisations and late-term abortions under China's policy restricting the size of most families, and for using his legal knowledge to help commoners battle a range of other perceived injustices.
Chen and his family were put under round-the-clock house arrest after he completed a four-year jail sentence in September 2010. He has said he was being punished for defiantly continuing to speak out.
His hometown of Dongshigu became notorious as a no-go zone for foreign media and other visitors, who were typically chased away and often assaulted by local guards apparently employed by officials.
Human rights groups have demanded the Chinese government ensure the safety of Chen and his family.
Chinese Human Rights Defenders said Chinese officials have taken at least four of his relatives into custody along with a supporter believed involved in aiding Chen's escape.
The group called on the Chinese government to "immediately release illegally detained relatives and supporters" and "stop its unlawful treatment of Chen, guarantee his safety when he reappears, and investigate his extra-legal house arrest by local officials."
Source: AFP Global Edition