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Dissident freed under Obama: Trump 'courage' can stop China

A blind Chinese dissident whose escape to the U.S. was facilitated by the Obama administration is calling on other countries to support President Donald Trump in leading a coalition to “stop China's aggression.”

“Standing up to fight unfairness is not easy. I know. So does President Trump,” Chen Guangcheng said Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention, “but he has shown the courage to wage that fight.”

Chen's 2012 flight to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing sparked a six-day diplomatic tussle between the U.S. and China, threatening to derail then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's strategic talks intended to build trust between the world’s superpower and its up-and-coming rival.

An international symbol for human dignity after running afoul of local government officials for exposing forced abortions carried out as part of China’s one-child policy, Chen was subjected to years of persecution and illegal detention for advising villagers on how to counter official abuses. After serving four years in prison on what supporters called fabricated charges, Chen was kept under house arrest until escaping in 2012, dodging a security cordon around his home in east China’s Shandong province and placing himself under the protection of U.S. diplomats.

After six days holed up inside the American embassy in Beijing, he was taken to a nearby hospital. U.S. officials said they had extracted from the Chinese government a promise that Chen would reunite with his family and be allowed to start a new life in a university town.

In a telephone interview from his hospital room, a shaken Chen told The Associated Press that U.S. officials told him the Chinese authorities would have sent his family back to his home province if he remained inside the embassy.

“Help my family and me leave safely," Chen said, appealing again for help from U.S. officials.

Clinton prevailed on Chinese officials to allow Chen to leave for the U.S., where he lived in New York after his escape. In a 2015 memoir, Chen wrote of pressure from Clinton's aides to accept China's deal and disputed Clinton's own assertions that the State Department had acceded to his demands.

In her own memoir, Clinton has described the case as a hallmark achievement of her tenure at the State Department, saying it “reminds us of our responsibility to make sure our country remains the beacon for dissidents and dreamers from all over the world.”

“We need to support, vote, and fight for President Trump, for the sake of the world," Chen said to close out his remarks Wednesday.

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Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP