A senior US diplomat arrived in Beijing on Sunday (April 29) amid political aftershocks following the escape from house arrest of a blind Chinese civil-rights activist who is believed to have sought sanctuary in the US embassy.
Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state, arrived in the capital as Chinese police moved to detain activists and relatives suspected of being involved in the dramatic bid for freedom last week by Chen Guangcheng.
After more than six years of jail and house arrest, Chen climbed over the wall of his home last Sunday night and evaded checkpoints and dozens of guards, before meeting a supporter who drove him to Beijing. According to friends and overseas human rights groups, he is now under US diplomatic protection.
Texas-based ChinaAid said on Saturday that "high-level talks" had begun "between US and Chinese officials regarding Chen's status".
But neither government has yet spoken publicly about the issue, which could hardly have come at a more politically sensitive moment for the world's two biggest economies. Campbell was originally expected to visit China later this week. The secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and the treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, are due to arrive in Beijing on Wednesday.
If Chen is confirmed to be in the embassy, negotiations about his future could overshadow efforts to improve the bilateral relationship.