Blind Chinese rights activist Chen Guangcheng has found shelter in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, but is not seeking asylum in the United States, says fellow dissident Hu Jia.
Chen -- known for spotlighting China's forced sterilization campaign -- fled house arrest in Shandong Province on April 22 and was reported to have arrived at the U.S. Embassy on April 28.
The case has emerged as top-level Chinese and U.S. officials, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are preparing for talks due to begin on May 3 in Beijing.
U.S. officials have declined to confirm that Chen is under U.S. protection.
"The New York Times" reported that Kurt Campbell, a U.S. assistant secretary of state, has arrived in Beijing for talks about Chen's case.
In an Internet video over the weekend, Chen asked Chinese authorities to investigate the what he described as the beating of his relatives. The message called for their protection, and for action against corruption in China.
Chen's possible exile destination remains unclear. Bob Fu of the Texas-based rights group ChinaAid said he expected China and the United States will seek to reach agreement on the fate of Chen within days, perhaps before Clinton's visit begins on May 3.
Analysts say the case has added to tension as Washington and Beijing square off for the high-level talks expected to focus on trade and international issues including the Iranian nuclear program, the Syrian conflict, and the stalled six-country talks on North Korea, an ally of China.
Shi Yinghong, a professor of international relations of the Renmin University in Beijing, says the United States and China will likely seek to limit the impact of the Chen case on their bilateral relations.
"The U.S. really hopes that China can cooperate with it on the issues of Iran, Syria, and North Korea and also hopes to gain more economic concessions from China. These are all beneficial to the U.S. presidential election campaign," Shi says.
"In this situation, both sides want to restrict the impact of this incident. But whether they can find a way to resolve the problem relatively quickly depends on how the dialogue and discussions go."
Dissidents and human rights activists are worried about Chen's fate. Zeng Jinyan, the wife of dissident Hu Jia, on April 29 appealed for international protection for Chen.
"We want not only the United States, but the whole world, to work as hard as possible to help Chen Guangcheng, to guarantee his safety," she said.
"We have already gone down all the legal avenues possible in China, but he and his family are still being treated unjustly, treated cruelly."
Chen, a self-schooled legal advocate who campaigned against abortions forced under China "one child" policy, had been held under extra-legal confinement in his village home in Linyi since September 2010, when he was released from jail.
Based on reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP