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May 28, 2017

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China dissident's escape 'more exciting than Shawshank Redemption'

BEIJING -- The woman who drove blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng to Beijing after his dramatic escape from house arrest in eastern China told how she sat down with security officers afterwards to watch the jailbreak movie, "The Shawshank Redemption."

He Peirong said that five days after picking up Chen, she was taken from her home in Nanjing by state security officers "to assist with investigations." The officers interrogated her about whether she helped plan Chen's escape.

"They asked me every day: How did you move him out? How many people went? Was there any advance planning? How did you plan it? What were your roles?" He, pronounced "her," said, adding that the officers were very polite and did not accuse her of breaking any laws.

"They thought more than 100 people were watching a blind man and they could let the blind man escape? They felt it was inconceivable," He said. "They couldn't believe it was true. They kept on asking me: did this really happen?"

In an odd twist, He said, "The Shawshank Redemption" was showing on television in the hotel room where three security officers questioned her and Guo Yushan, a Beijing-based researcher and rights activist.

The five of them sat together on the bed to watch.

"After we finished watching the movie, I told the police officers: I want to tell you a story that is more exciting than this movie," she said, before recounting Chen's flight.

The "Shawshank Redemption," a 1994 movie starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, tells the story of a prisoner wrongly accused of murder, his fight to clear his name and his eventual jailbreak.

It is now blocked as a search term on Chinese microblogs.

He Peirong said she had received a surprise email from a source which read: "The bird has left the cage. What do we do?"

"I understand. I'm in Beijing," He replied. She was in the capital, meeting friends.

By midnight the next day she had driven for six hours by car and arrived at the outskirts of Linyi city in Shandong. She was accompanied by Guo, but declined to give details on how many other people were in the car.

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