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Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng given US fellowship

June 24, 2012

 Mr Chen initially said he wanted to stay in China, but changed his mind
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Chen Guangcheng

The US says prominent Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng has been offered a fellowship by a US university.

The US state department said it would move quickly to provide a visa for Mr Chen and his family, and it expected China to allow them to leave soon.

Earlier Beijing has said the blind activist could apply to study abroad - paving the way for a resolution to a tense diplomatic stand-off with the US.

Mr Chen fled house arrest last month and spent six days in the US embassy.

He left but now says he wants to go to the US with his family.

His case has overshadowed high-level US-China talks taking place in Beijing.

"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.

She said the US expected Beijing to process their application for travel documents "expeditiously".

"The United States government would then give visa requests for him and his immediate family priority attention," the statement added.

Clinton: "This is... about the human rights and aspirations of a billion people."

Earlier, Xinhua news agency quoted foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin as saying: "If he wishes to study overseas, as a Chinese citizen, he can, like any other Chinese citizens, process relevant procedures with relevant departments through normal channels in accordance with the law."

Following an annual strategic dialogue between the US and China, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was "encouraged" by the Chinese statement.

"Progress has been made to help him have the future he wants," she told a news conference in Beijing.

Mrs Clinton also confirmed that US embassy staff, including a doctor, had been able to meet Mr Chen.

The dissident is currently in a Beijing hospital, sealed off by Chinese police.

The deputy head of mission at the US embassy was seen arriving at the hospital on Friday, carrying gifts. He met Mr Chen's wife Yuan Weijing but was prevented from meeting the dissident himself.

Mr Chen spent a week in the US embassy but left after initially accepting China's assurances of his safety.
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