Activists: Blind Chinese lawyer flees house arrest
Rights campaigners say a blind legal activist and leading figure in China's rights movement has escaped the house arrest he lived under for 18 months.
The campaigners said Friday that Chen Guangcheng slipped out of his usually well-guarded house in Shandong province this week. They are declining to say where Chen is, though activist He Peirong says he is no longer in Shandong.
Rumors that Chen had died circulated on microblogs overnight. Calls to local officials were not immediately answered Friday.
If confirmed, Chen's freedom would boost a persecuted dissident community that has seen heavier repression in the last two years. Chen is a self-taught lawyer who served four years in prison for exposing forced abortions and sterilizations in his community.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)