Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng made a dramatic plea to US lawmakers from his Beijing hospital bed Thursday, phoning in to a congressional hearing to ask for help to travel to the United States.
"I really am fearing for my family members' lives," said the blind activist, who escaped from house arrest and spent six days at the US embassy in Beijing until leaving on Wednesday.
"The thing I'm most concerned with now is the safety of my mother and my brother," he said, speaking through a mobile phone held up to the hearing as a friend translated from Mandarin into English.
"I really want to know what's going on with them."
In extraordinary scenes in the wood-paneled room of a congressional building on Capitol Hill, Chen, 40, appealed directly to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is currently in Beijing for previously scheduled talks.
"I want to meet with Secretary Clinton. I hope I can get more help from her," Chen told Representative Chris Smith, who chaired the hearing on Chen's case, as stunned witnesses and reporters looked on.
The United States has scrambled to contain a growing diplomatic row over the blind activist, who riled Chinese authorities by exposing forced abortions and sterilizations under the "one-child" policy.
US officials said Chen left the embassy after Beijing pledged he and his family would be treated "humanely."
But Chen, a self-taught lawyer, has since said he felt under pressure to go, fearing for the safety of his family, who suffered repeated abuses at the hands of local officials in their hometown in the eastern province of Shandong.