U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her goal is to welcome Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng to the U.S. to study, adding that he is meeting with Chinese officials to make arrangements to leave.
“I’m not going to put any timeline on it, because we’re all working very hard,” Clinton said in an interview with Bloomberg Radio in New Delhi. “There are a lot of people engaged in both the Chinese and the American governments.”
Clinton was involved in negotiations over Chen, who is blind, during her visit to Beijing for cabinet-level talks last week, days after he fled house arrest and sought shelter at the U.S. embassy. After initially agreeing to a deal that would have him remain in China to study, Chen changed his mind and said he wanted to travel to the U.S.
Chen is being treated for a broken foot and other ailments at a Beijing hospital, where he’s stayed since leaving the U.S. embassy on May 2.
“My goal is to welcome him to the United States to pursue his studies,” Clinton said. “We actually resolved it twice but the second resolution was acceptable to Mr. Chen. We were working hard to honor both his choices and our values.”
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China’s Foreign Ministry had earlier said Chen, who was imprisoned for four years after representing villagers who opposed forced sterilizations and abortions, had the right to apply for travel documents like any other citizen. U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said yesterday China has indicated it will grant him and his immediate family documents, and the U.S. is “making the necessary preparations” for when the paperwork comes through.
Chen was held under house arrest in the village of Dongshigu for more than a year after his release from prison. Local officials had walls erected around his home and plain- clothes guards prevented anyone from visiting him, sometimes beating them up, during that time.
Chen, who said after leaving the embassy that he began to fear for his family’s safety, has been invited to be a visiting scholar at New York University. The U.S. is prepared to grant Chen a visa “right away,” U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on May 6.
In an interview with the Associated Press yesterday, Chen said he’s confident Beijing will let him study overseas.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei declined to comment yesterday when asked if Chen had applied for a passport. Hong said the U.S. interfered with China’s internal affairs in Chen’s case and should reflect on its actions.
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