Dissident Chen 'does not know when he can leave China'

Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng at in Beijing, 2 May Mr Chen initially said he wanted to stay in China, but changed his mind

Activist Chen Guangcheng says he does not know when he will be allowed to leave China despite an offer from a US university.

Mr Chen, who spent six days at the US embassy, said US officials were still being barred from his hospital.

He told the BBC he had asked Chinese officials for help but had not started doing the paperwork for a passport.

On Sunday US Vice-President Joe Biden said a visa was waiting for Mr Chen as soon as he applied.

"[Chinese officials] promised that they would help me process the passports, but I haven't been given an exact time. I haven't started filling in the forms," Mr Chen said.

"I hope they can help me process this because I'm lying in bed and can't do it myself."

Mr Chen said he had been able to talk to US officials.

"I've been speaking to the American embassy people for the last couple of days. Yesterday [Sunday], the ambassador came to visit me again, but the Chinese foreign ministry didn't allow him in."

The US embassy in Beijing declined to comment on whether the ambassador had tried to visit the activist.

But a spokesman said the embassy had talked to Mr Chen on the telephone twice on Sunday and once again on Monday.

US diplomats also met Mr Chen's wife on Saturday when she left her husband's bedside to speak to them.

On Sunday Joe Biden said Washington expected China to "stick to that commitment" for him to study in the US, where he has been offered a fellowship by New York University (NYU).

'No way'

Mr Chen fled house arrest last month and spent six days in the US embassy.

The 40-year-old campaigned against forced abortions and sterilisations of women under China's one-child policy.

Chen Guangcheng

Chen Guangcheng (file photo 2006)
  • Born 12 Nov 1971
  • Nicknamed the "Barefoot Lawyer"
  • Went blind as a child
  • Campaigned for women forced to have abortions or sterilisation under China's one-child-per-family policy
  • Jailed for four years in 2006 for disrupting traffic and damaging property
  • Released from jail in 2010 and placed under house arrest
  • Daughter barred from school during much of 2011, reports say
  • Escapes house arrest, April 2012

He left the embassy on Wednesday after accepting China's assurances of his safety. He later said that in view of the threats against his family, he had decided to leave the country.

Mr Chen's case dramatically overshadowed high-level US-China trade and strategy talks that took place in Beijing last week.

After several days of tension, China said on Friday that if the activist wanted to study overseas, he could "process relevant procedures with relevant departments through normal channels in accordance with the law".

The move was seen as paving the way for a resolution to a diplomatic crisis which both Beijing and Washington had sought to downplay.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - in Beijing for the annual talks - said she was "encouraged" by the Chinese statement. "Progress has been made to help him have the future he wants," she told a news conference in Beijing.

China had earlier demanded an apology from the US for sheltering Mr Chen in its embassy.

This was reiterated in a commentary published in China Daily on Monday, accusing the US of violating international and Chinese laws and interfering in ''China's internal affairs''.

However, the writer also stressed that ''healthy ties'' between the two countries ''will not be held hostage by a single incident''.

A Global Times article by a ''blogger and grassroots intellectual'' accused the US of using Mr Chen as ''a pawn in its plot against China''. The writer also alleged that Mr Chen had monopolised water supply in his hometown of Dongshigu village in Shandong province.

Rights activist He Peirong (also known as Pearl Her), who had driven Mr Chen to Beijing during his escape, responded to the allegations on Twitter, saying they were part of a smear campaign directed at him.

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