China says Dissident Can Apply to Go Abroad

Chinese security guards block journalists at the entrance of a hospital where blind activist lawyer Chen Guangcheng is recuperating in Beijing,  May 4, 2012.
Chinese security guards block journalists at the entrance of a hospital where blind activist lawyer Chen Guangcheng is recuperating in Beijing, May 4, 2012.
Stephanie Ho

Chinese officials say legal activist Chen Guangcheng is free to apply to go overseas if he wants to, and U.S. officials say they expect China to process his travel paperwork quickly. The still developing case of the lawyer, who left the U.S. embassy earlier this week, has overshadowed high-level annual talks between American and Chinese officials. U.S. officials say Chen has been offered a fellowship at an American university.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin's comments Friday seemed to indicate some softening of the Chinese government's position on Chen Guangcheng.

Liu says if Chen wants to study abroad, he may apply according to relevant procedures and through the same channels as any other Chinese citizen.

In answer to a question about whether China has received the apology it had demanded from the United States, Liu said Beijing notes that Washington takes its concerns and demands seriously.

A State Department official says a U.S. university has offered Chen a fellowship that would allow him to bring his wife and children to the country while he studies. The official says the U.S. expects Chinese officials to expeditiously process Chen's travel paperwork.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who just finished two days of annual talks with Chinese officials, called Beijing's statement on Chen encouraging.

"I am pleased that today our ambassador has spoken with him again, our embassy staff and our doctor had a chance to meet with him, and he confirms that he and his family now want to go to the United States so he can pursue his studies," said Clinton.

She said progress has been made to help him, in her words, "get the future that he wants." She added that American officials will stay in touch with him as the process moves forward.

She described the just-concluded Strategic and Economic Dialogue as a regular venue where the two sides can emphasize cooperation but also frankly discuss areas of disagreement.

Chen is currently being treated at a Beijing hospital for a foot injury. Last month, he made a daring escape from heavily guarded house arrest in Shandong province and then last week, he turned up at the U.S. Embassy.

He left the American mission on Wednesday, one day before high-level U.S.-China talks, and was escorted to a local hospital. He initially wanted to remain in China, but he later told supporters and foreign reporters that he has changed his mind, and now wants to go overseas.

Chen underscored his intention to go abroad "to rest," in telephone testimony to a U.S. Congressional hearing in Washington Thursday.

Chinese artist activist Ai Weiwei, who was held in detention several months last year, says he believes the situation for Chen is precarious if he stays in the country.

Ai says all parties involved, both the U.S. and Chinese governments, are in an awkward situation, which he says causes a severely unsafe and unstable situation for Chen and his family.

Ai adds that he believes Chen may have wanted to stay in China, but has become frightened after talking to friends and family. He points to Chen's desire to go abroad as something that should be rational and legal for any Chinese citizen.

Ai admiringly calls Chen "a mouse," and says he is an ordinary person who has suffered so much and carried what he describes as a big burden for the cause of human rights in China.

Chen, who is blind, is a 40-year-old self-taught legal activist. He helped expose forced abortions and sterilizations by Chinese family planning authorities and served four years in jail.

Since he was freed in September 2010, plainclothes security personnel have confined him and his family to his home in rural Shandong, and reportedly have beaten him and his family members.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Jonathan Huang
May 06, 2012 6:26 AM
@ Citizen us , who is the dictator in China? Hu jintao or Wen jiabao? As far as I know, Hu and Wen only have one child. Why dictator has to obey a law? If a dictator obeys laws, you still call him dictator?

by: citizen
May 05, 2012 8:43 PM
Thank you, ‘VOA China! You provide real news to the Chinese people and have them know what was happening in their country, because the Chinese government has cut off the news from the website, so the VOA China has become 95% of the Chinese people the only real news source! We Americans want our media to support the Chinese people to fight for human rights and democracy, the United States is not afraid of any dictator! We hope that the 'VOA China' continue to do so.

by: Jonathan Huang
May 05, 2012 6:55 PM
Chen must go to US and "Chen for ten", I like his new name lol, must have at lease 10 babies in US, come on all those mothers want more baby just go the US embassy for asylum and go to US to have their tons babys! Maybe come here to Canada, come on! our government gonna pay you for more kids! If I am no mistaking it is $400 per month each baby, come on!

by: melvin polatnick
May 05, 2012 5:39 AM
It is called the mothers revolution and their hero is CHEN FOR TEN, he wants large families in China instead of mothers limited to only one child. CHEN FOR TEN says the lord will provide food for the ten billion new babies.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs