Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng says he left the U.S. Embassy in Beijing after Chinese authorities made death threats to his family.
Chen told the Associated Press on the phone that officials threatened to beat his wife to death.
Chen told the AP that U.S. officials relayed the threat from the Chinese side.
The U.S.-based rights group ChinaAid also said Chen made the decision reluctantly because of a "serious threat to his immediate family members."
However, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement that "at no time did any U.S. official speak to Chen about physical or legal threats to his wife and children. Nor did Chinese officials make any such threats to us."
Nuland confirmed that Chen intended to return to his family. However, she added that "U.S. interlocutors did make clear that if Chen elected to stay in the embassy, Chinese officials had indicated to us that his family would be returned to [their home province of] Shandong, and they would lose their opportunity to negotiate for reunification."
Chinese state television announced on May 2 that Chen had left the U.S. Embassy of his own accord.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is in Beijing, has pledged that Washington would remain "committed" to Chen.
But CNN television quoted Chen as saying that he felt "let down" by the United States, and reaffirmed his desire to leave China.
Chen has angered the government in Beijing with his campaign to expose forced abortions under China's one-child policy.
Chen had escaped illegal house arrest and other mistreatment, seeking refuge at the U.S. Embassy last week. He emerged on May 2 and was taken to a nearby hospital.
In a statement, China's Foreign Ministry accused the United States of interfering in China's domestic affairs.
based on reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters