U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says "progress" has been made in resolving a diplomatic dispute between Washington and Beijing over Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese dissident who escaped house arrest and fled to the U.S. Embassy.
Clinton, speaking on May 4 on a previously scheduled visit to Beijing, said she was "encouraged" by a statement from the Chinese government confirming that Chen can apply to authorities to study abroad.
Hours after the Chinese announcement about foreign study, the U.S. State Department said Chen had been offered a fellowship from an American university.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement that Chen could be accompanied to the United States by his wife and two children but gave no further details about the fellowship offer.
Chen escaped house arrest on April 22 and fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He left the embassy on May 2 after initially agreeing to stay in China but later reversed his position, saying he was fearful about the safety of himself and his family.
In her remarks in Beijing, Clinton said U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke had spoken again to Chen on May 4 and that Chen had confirmed he hoped to go to the United States to study. Clinton did not give a timeline for a resolution of the case.
"From the beginning, all of our efforts with Mr. Chen have been guided by his choices and our values," she said. "And 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."
Chen, who is currently in a Beijing hospital receiving treatment for a broken foot apparently suffered during his escape, spoke by telephone on May 3 to a U.S. congressional hearing on his case.
Chen told the U.S. lawmakers his situation was dire and said his friends and family members in recent days had been followed and even beaten.
"My situation is not good," Chen said. "I just found out that my friends were beaten up when they tried to visit me. I haven't been able to meet with the U.S. diplomats for two days. They were not allowed to see me when they came over. The situation is very bad. My wife wanted to go shopping today, but they didn't allow her to go, saying she must get clearance first. Then she was being followed and filmed by at least three people when she eventually went after getting permission."
Chen was placed under house arrest in Shandong Province after angering Chinese officials by exposing the practice of forced abortions and sterilizations under China's one-child policy.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP