China dissident Chen 'can apply to study abroad'


Clinton: "This is... about the human rights and aspirations of a billion people here in China."

China says prominent dissident Chen Guangcheng can apply to study abroad, potentially indicating a way out of the diplomatic crisis with the US over him.

A foreign ministry statement said Mr Chen could "apply through normal channels in accordance with the law".

The blind dissident fled house arrest last month and spent six days inside the US embassy. He left but now says he wants to go to the US with his family.

His case has overshadowed high-level US-China talks taking place in Beijing.

"If he wishes to study overseas, as a Chinese citizen, he can, like any other Chinese citizens, process relevant procedures with relevant departments through normal channels in accordance to the law," Xinhua news agency quoted spokesman Liu Weimin as saying.

Speaking at the end of the two-day annual strategic dialogue, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 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.

Mrs Clinton also confirmed that US embassy staff, including a doctor, had been able to meet Mr Chen.



After delivering Chen Guangcheng into Chinese hands, the Americans will now be under pressure to secure his safety.

Mr Chen left the US embassy in Beijing saying he wanted to stay in China. It is now clear he wants to leave. But that might not be easy to arrange.

While the activist was in the embassy the US had more control over his fate than now.

At the moment, the Americans seem to be finding it difficult even to see the activist, as he languishes in a hospital bed, surrounded by guards.

Mr Chen came out of the US embassy thinking his safety had been assured - but it is hard to escape the conclusion that he is already in detention.

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

Despite the apparent change of heart from the government, one human rights lawyer told the Reuters news agency that Mr Chen could still be delayed or prevented from leaving the country.

"This notice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is positive news, but how it will play out we don't know," Tang Jitian told Reuters.

"For instance, getting the approval for the paperwork to go - there are many potential pitfalls. We can't be 100% optimistic."

Mr Chen is currently in a Beijing hospital, sealed off by Chinese police.

The deputy head of mission at the US embassy to Beijing was seen arriving at the hospital on Friday, carrying gifts. He met Mr Chen's wife Yuan Weijing but was prevented from meeting the dissident himself.

On Thursday, Mr Chen telephoned a US Congressional hearing in Washington DC, saying he feared for the safety of his family and wanted to meet Mrs Clinton face to face.

Chen Guangcheng said he was not allowed to see US officials (seen here leaving gifts outside hospital) - he said the situation was very dangerous

Mr Chen spent a week in the US embassy but left after initially accepting China's assurances of his safety.

However, he later said that he only realised the full extent of the threats against his family members after he left the embassy.

'Boundless range of issues'

Speaking after talks with the Chinese leadership, Mrs Clinton said she had raised the issue of human rights, although she did not mention Mr Chen by name.

Mr Chen made a dramatic phone call to a US Congressional hearing

"Of course, the United States continues to raise human rights because we believe that they are essential for every country to uphold," she said at the end of the two-day annual strategic dialogue with China.

"We raise specific matters of individuals and situations whenever necessary because we cannot ignore our areas of difference in the comprehensive relationship that we are building," Mrs Clinton said.

China's top diplomat, foreign relations councillor Dai Bingguo, said the talks had covered a "boundless range of issues".

"There's nothing we haven't discussed. But I think we have discussed one fundamental issue, that is how to build a new China-US relationship, a new relationship between great powers," Mr Dai said.

Mr Chen told the BBC he had changed his mind about staying in China because he believed Beijing had reneged on an agreement to guarantee his safety.

There is no official confirmation of any such agreement, but media reports from the US suggest that Mr Chen had been promised safety in a university town in China.

Dissident 'deals' for exile

  • Fang Lizhi: Intellectual who inspired Tiananmen Square protesters. The day after tanks moved in, he sought refuge in the US embassy. He was finally allowed to leave in 1990 after a complex deal, which saw him go to the UK to study and then into political exile in the US
  • Wang Dan: One of the Tiananmen Square student leaders, he spent time in prison, before being released ostensibly for medical reasons and sent to the US for treatment in 1996-1997 where he settled as a political exile
  • Wei Jingsheng: Chinese democracy activist who was sentenced to 14 years in prison but released early in 1997 on "medical parole" and immediately deported to the US

Mr Chen, 40, is a lawyer who has campaigned against forced abortions and sterilisations of women under China's policy of one child per family.

Mr Chen told the Associated Press news agency his phone calls to American officials "keep getting cut off after two sentences".

He also told AP his wife was being followed and filmed by unidentified men whenever she was allowed to leave the hospital. And he said one of his friends was taken away by state agents and beaten after he tried to visit Mr Chen.

The case has increasing political resonance in the US, where Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticised the administration of President Barack Obama.

Mr Romney said that if reports that US officials had persuaded Mr Chen to leave the embassy were true, "this is a dark day for freedom and it's a day of shame for the Obama administration".

The Beijing Daily, one of China's main official newspapers, said Mr Chen was an American pawn and criticised US ambassador Gary Locke as a "backpack-wearing, Starbucks-sipping troublemaker".

Mr Locke caused a stir in China last year when he was seen carrying his own backpack and ordering his own coffee at Seattle airport, in contrast to Chinese officials who usually travel with an entourage.


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Chen Guangcheng


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  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    24 Minutes ago
    It may be unacceptable, but like I said, they are dealing with Obama/DC/TB, are you saying UK/US gov don't lock people up indefinitely? //

    What if they do? People still flood here claiming asylum, and are ready to go to extraordinary lengths to avoid being deported. Tells its own story.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    4:beamish:He may not be under a great deal of duress yet, but who can say what will happen when the media stops focussing on this case.

    7:Bauer: That presumes that the new rulers won't improve the situation.

    24:onomatopoiia:No, he hadn't been charged with anything, he was under house arrest to prevent him from standing up for Chinese women again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    The moment it became known that Chen was in the US Embassy, I knew the whistle was on him. When he was taken from there to the hospital (as if there are no doctors at the diplomatic mission) I also knew the game was up for him. China is not known to be merciful to those who create diplomatic headache for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Of course the US and UK are safer places to live. However, to condemn another country for human rights abuses we have to perfectly abide by the human rights laws ourselves.

    You cannot preach democracy and social ideals only when it suits you!

    The US know they will soon be overtaken by China and will now do anything to criticize and belittle the Chinese regime. They've got the super-power angst!

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    46.Happy Barrel
    Yeah great, people who can't make a living in another country coming here to enjoy benefit built/provided by brits. Let's brag about that.
    I'd be banning on UKBA to sort it out, but you seem to be pround of it, eh? We are the best!
    Well, look around, things are changing pretty quickly and THAT's what I am saying, sort UK out first!

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    As long as he doesn't want to come to the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    In the west we tend to assume that other cultures have the same values as we do. Whilst we all have the same basic ambitions the weight applied to democracy, individual freedoms, wealth, security, personal conduct, crime etc. is not the same.

    In China, saving face is critical - the proposal for study leave represents a way out and should be accpeted in my opinion if only to help Chen's family.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    We shouldn't be judging ourselves by China's standards. We should be judging ourselves by universal moral standards, most appropriately represented by the UN Charter on Human Rights.

    The fact that Chinese people emigrate here is irrelevant, and cyclical - as a Scot, I'm very aware of ancestors and relatives throughout history who have and continue to emigrate to better their lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    A world in which China plays a leading role is truely terrifying. Autocracy and meek obediance are the only ideas they have exported since the Manchu Qing Dynasty and I cannot help but think that as their economy gorws this perfidious form of oppresive state will appeal more and more to those who crave to control rather than enrich mankind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    It is very easy to criticize China, but do remember it took 100s of years of human rights abuse before the UK (after the civial war) reach the point it is now, rememder the subjugation of the native in Kenya, Malaysia, Hong Kong and other outpost, where natives were not allowed to speak their mind about freedom, or allowed to live in areas where whites live, this only changed in the 60s 70s.

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Chinese Official: "Comrade Chen, you can always apply to study abroad."
    Chen: "Oh super! In that case, can I study abroad please?"
    Chinese Official: "Er, no."

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Just now
    Duno about u, I peronsally hate hypocrites more than anything....US? They did it (G bay), tried to justify it ("enemy combatants") n now they might b able to kill their own people?//

    US and here still so much better than anywhere else, as shown by immigrants and 'asylum seekers' heading here ,not to China

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Duno about u, I peronsally hate hypocrites more than anything. I dun think China ever lashed out on HR, because they know they aren't gd nuf. But US? They did it (G bay), tried to justify it ("enemy combatants") n now they might b able to kill their own people?
    Such a sad political game which shows how much US care about HR. At least shut up and deal with it first. Oh, my limit's up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    I second what 'Cheddy' says.
    How can China possibly listen to the US preach about human rights abuses? They abandoned what little moral high ground they held when they opened (and continue to operate) Guantanamo. Not to mention being the only western country to still enforce the death penalty. Practice before you preach seconded.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    This man is an irritating attention seeker, 'wants to fly back in Clinton's plane' etc. I think China would be pleased to see the back of him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Humanity has fought tooth and nail for wealth and liberty. The battle is at different stages throughout the world.

    It will never stop. Anywhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Why are people cherry-picking the few bad things about Western freedoms and holding them up to the worlds-apart state-control of China, saying "Ah, but look at how bad we are"?? Its pathetic. The West has fought tooth and nail for the liberties and wealth that we all enjoy, and if we hadn't done it, another nation would have, and we'd be poorer, economically, culturally and freedom-wise for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Although - to check myself, the industrial scale, state mandated, sterilisation of women and forced abortions is particularly disgusting.... as is the forced censorship of those who speak out against it

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    8 Minutes ago
    Would I rather be a British Citizen than a Chinese one - would I be more 'free'? Probably. Not necessarily.

    Would I emigrate to China? Maybe - I could probably find better paid job.//

    I wish all those Chinese immigrants, legal and illegal, thought the same as you.


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