Blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng says a US official told him that Chinese authorities threatened to beat his wife to death had he not left the US embassy in Beijing.
Speaking by phone from his hospital room in Beijing on Wednesday night, a shaken Chen told The Associated Press news agency that US officials relayed the threat from the Chinese side.
Chen, who fled to the embassy six day ago, left under an agreement in which he would receive medical care and be reunited with his family and allowed to attend university in a safe place.
He says he now fears for his safety and wants to leave the country.
A US official denied knowledge of the threat, but says Chen was told his family would be sent back home if he stayed in the embassy.
The US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Chen did not ask for asylum and is staying in China after receiving assurances from the government that he would be treated as a normal citizen.
"Chen Guangcheng has arrived at a medical facility in Beijing where he will receive medical treatment and be reunited with his family," said a senior US official said on Wednesday.
The official said that the activist was brought into the US embassy because he was in need of medical care.
Chen, a legal activist, had angered Chinese authorities by exposing forced abortions and sterilisations under the "one-child" policy.
The development comes hours after Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, arrived in China for key annual talks.
"I am pleased that we were able to facilitate Chen Guangcheng's stay and departure from the US Embassy in a way that reflected his choices and our values," Clinton said in Beijing.
Beijing has demanded that the US apologise for sheltering Cheng in its embassy, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Liu Weimin, foreign ministry spokesman, said: "China is very unhappy over this. The US action is an interference in China's internal affairs and China cannot accept it."
"Chen Guangcheng, a native from Yinan County of eastern China's Shandong Province, entered the US embassy in Beijing in late April and left of his own volition after a six-day stay in the embassy," he said.
Both the countries have broken their silence over the issue after avoiding public comment in recent days.
Chen, who has been blind since childhood, has long been a high-profile figure and international rights groups have frequently expressed alarm at the treatment of him and his family.
Chen exposed how local authorities in Linyi, in Shandong province, forced thousands of women to have abortions or be sterilised as part of China's one-child policy
He was placed under house arrest in 2010 after spending more than four years in jail for disrupting traffic and damaging property.
Chen's colleagues said the escape from house arrest had taken months to plan, and was carried out with the help of a network of friends and activists.
He had jumped over the wall that the authorities had built around his house, he was taken to Beijing, where supporters say he stayed in safe houses before fleeing to the embassy.
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|William A. Cook|
|Timothy V. Gatto|