File photo of blind Chinese activist and lawyer Chen Guangcheng at the US embassy. AP Photo
The US on Friday offered blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng a fellowship at an American university, within hours of China saying he would go abroad to study.
The Chinese offer and the US fellowship give both countries a cautious window of opportunity to resolve the ongoing diplomatic crisis over Chen’s stay at the US embassy — something China took strong exception to.
“Mr Chen has been offered a fellowship from an American university, where he can be accompanied by his wife and two children,” US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.
“The Chinese government has indicated that it will accept Mr Chen’s applications for appropriate travel documents ... The US government would then give visa requests for him and his immediate family priority attention,” Nuland said.
Earlier, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton had said China’s offer was encouraging and added that the US will continue to be in touch with Chen.
But how the situation will unravel was not immediately clear. For China to allow Chen to leave the country after his dramatic escape from months of house arrest could leave an uneasy precedence. Some also fear that once the media focus shifts, the formalities of Chen’s going abroad could be delayed.
Earlier in the day, speaking from his hospital bed in Beijing, Chen addressed US congressmen and senators over telephone. He requested Clinton to help secure a safe passage for him and his family to the US.
“I want to meet with Clinton. I hope I can get more help from her,” he said. “I want to come to the US to rest. I have not had rest in 10 years.”
In the US, Republicans have accused the administration of short-changing Chen for the sake of ties with China. Mitt Romney, candidate for Republican presidential nomination, asked the administration to ensure Chen’s safety.
(With inputs from Yashwant Raj in Washington)