Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guancheng on Thursday pitched for democracy in his homeland as he accused the government of China of retaliating against his family after he fled house arrest to leave for the United States.
Chen, who had taken refuge in the US embassy just before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visit to China, claimed his family members were attacked.
"After I left my home in Shandong, the local authorities there have been retaliating against my family in a frenzied way," Chen said at an event organised by Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
Chen said after he left Shandong, the local authorities got 30-odd hired thugs with axe handles and busted their way into the home of his elder brother and his son, kicked open their door and retaliated against their family members.
"I understand that they were very severely beaten... Even my nephew's clothes were torn off... he was injured all over. He was still bleeding three hours after ... that kind of situation, my nephew really had no choice but to take a kitchen knife and fight back.
"And think about this. In the middle of the night, and totally against China's constitution, they broke into a home, harmed people and then robbed him. They took away my brother's communications equipment, including his cellphone," he alleged.
Responding to questions, Chen said though China cannot blindly copy western democracies, but can very well adapt from other democracies in Asia -- like South Korea and Japan.
"We cannot just copy Western democracy. Some Western countries, they still have aristocrats and royal families. We can't do that. But we also need to learn Eastern democracy -- Japan, South Korea. And China, what's wrong with us having our own democracy, Taiwan has democracy too," he said.
Chen strongly argued against the Chinese argument that the international community should not interfere in its internal affairs.
"I think international law should play a role in that if you go beyond the norms, if you are behaving inappropriately towards your own citizens, your own people, I think international law should have some constraining ability".
The law situation in China has deteriorated, alleged Chen. "While I was in the embassy, I said I didn't want to leave China because what I meant was I didn't want asylum.
"After the diplomatic agreement was reached between China and the US and the central government guaranteed my personal safety -- in other words after I left the US embassy I enjoyed those rights that the government guaranteed me and so one of those rights is the freedom to travel in and out of China.
"Now you feel I changed my mind, but I don't feel I changed my mind. I'm here to study. Now that I have that guarantee of my right, I can do so," he said.