Los Angeles, May 4 (CNA) Blind Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, who fled house arrest late last month, has been invited to study at a university in the United States after expressing his wish to leave China for the U.S., a Texas-based group said Friday.
ChinaAid, an advocacy group committed to promoting religious freedom and the rule of law in China, said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Beijing for strategic and economic talks, announced that the U.S. had struck a deal with China to allow Chen, his wife and two children to go to the U.S.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Chen, who sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing following his escape, had been offered a fellowship by a U.S. university. New York University said it had invited Chen to be a visiting scholar at its law school.
Nuland also said Washington expected Beijing to deal quickly with Chen's application to travel abroad. "The United States government would then give visa requests for him and his immediate family priority attention," she said in a statement.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Chen could apply for travel permits through normal channels to study abroad, just like any other Chinese citizen.
The Associated Press cited Jerome Cohen, who has been advising Chen during the diplomatic standoff, as saying he didn't think this was "empty talk."
"I think they mean this is a way out, and it's a dignified way out. It's a good way out for the Chinese government, our government, and for Chen and his family," said Cohen, who met Chen nearly a decade ago and advised him during the negotiations.
Chen, currently at a Beijing hospital undergoing medical treatment for broken bones incurred during his escape, said in an telephone interview with Radio Free Asia Friday that he wanted to leave China with his family, not to emigrate, but to rest for a while.
"I've been in an environment of high tension. I need a period of recuperation and rest," he said.
He again expressed his appreciation for the support given by the United States, saying that Clinton has been "exceptional, and the diplomatic deal the U.S. struck with China has been unprecedented."
However, he also expressed concern about the safety of his mother, brother Chen Guangfu and nephew Chen Kegui.
Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught lawyer who was jailed for more than four years for organizing a class suit against the government for forcing women to have abortions under China's one-child policy, escaped from house arrest in Shandong Province April 22 and made his way to U.S. Embassy in Beijing a few days later.
After staying in the embassy for six days, he left voluntarily May 2 to go to the hospital under the escort of U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke and other U.S. officials.
The original deal was for him to study law in another city in China, but Chen later changed his mind, saying he wanted to go to the U.S. because of concerns for the safety of his family if he stayed in China.
(By Oscar Wu, Tony Liao and Lilian Wu)