US university offers blind dissident way out of China

Fellowship would allow both sides to save face after embarrassing diplomatic row

Beijing

There were signs of a breakthrough in the curious case of Chen Guangcheng yesterday after China hinted that the blind dissident could travel to an American university that has offered him a fellowship, paving the way for a face-saving deal between Washington and Beijing.

The two countries have been walking a delicate diplomatic tightrope since the activist escaped from house arrest in Shandong province and arrived at the US embassy in the Chinese capital. Frenzied negotiations eventually saw him leave the embassy on Wednesday – only for him to change his mind, citing concerns about his family's safety, and presenting US and Chinese officials with a damaging and embarrassing conundrum.

Steps were afoot to limit the fallout yesterday, with the Chinese foreign ministry saying Mr Chen could apply to study abroad, a key demand of the self-taught lawyer and dissident. The move came after Mr Chen, in a message conveyed by a friend, said he had been sent a letter of invitation by New York University.

"Chen Guangcheng is currently being treated in hospital," a ministry spokesman, Liu Weimin, said in a brief statement. "If he wants to study abroad, he can apply through normal channels to the relevant departments in accordance with the law, just like any other Chinese citizen."

Mr Chen was placed under house arrest in 2010 after serving a four-year prison term. He had angered authorities by highlighting the brutal enforcement of China's one-child policy.

Shortly before the foreign ministry announcement, Mr Chen told Reuters his situation was not good. "I've just found out that when friends have come to visit me, they've been beaten up. As well, for two days I haven't been able to meet US embassy diplomats. They came here, but they weren't allowed inside to meet me. I think this situation is very bad," he said.

The announcement from the foreign ministry also came after Mr Chen spoke to a US congressional hearing, his voice on a mobile phone amplified for the gathered lawmakers. "I want to come to the US to rest. I have not had a rest in 10 years," he told the hearing.

Later, the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who was in Beijing for bilateral talks that have been overshadowed by the Chen affair, said the US ambassador, Gary Locke, had spoken to the activist and confirmed that wanted to travel to the US to study.

"Over the course of the day progress has been made to help him have the future that he wants and we will be staying in touch with him as this process moves forward," she said. "This is not just about well-known activists; it's about the human rights and aspirations of more than a billion people here in China and billions more around the world and it's about the future of this great nation and all nations."

Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the US State Department, fleshed out the details in a statement, confirming that Mr Chen had been offered a place at an American university, and that he could be accompanied by his immediate family. "The Chinese government has indicated that it will accept Mr Chen's application for appropriate travel documents," she said.

Despite the possibility of a resolution to the saga, Chinese activists struck a note of caution. The human rights lawyer Tang Jitian said the overture from the Chinese foreign ministry "is positive news, but how it will play out we don't know", suggesting the authorities may yet hold up the paperwork.

There are also questions about what longer-term damage has been done to relations between the two countries. Chinese authorities are angry that the US embassy harboured Mr Chen and have demanded an apology and an investigation. Mr Chen stayed at the embassy for six days until Wednesday, when US officials took him to a Beijing hospital for treatment on his foot, which he broke during his escape.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HSE Manger - Solar

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: HSE Mana...

Data Governance Manager (Solvency II) – Contract – Up to £450 daily rate, 6 month (may go Permanent)

£350 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently looking...

Powertrain Design Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I hope you are well. My client based in ...

Java Developer - Banking - London - Up to £560/day

£500 - £560 per day: Orgtel: Java Developer FX - Banking - London - Up to £560...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried