4 May 2012

Chen can study abroad, says China

China says that the blind dissident Chen Guangcheng can apply to study abroad, suggesting a possible resolution to the country’s diplomatic crisis with the United States.

The announcement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry comes after Chen phoned a US congressional hearing from his hospital room, pleading for help to get to the United States.

Durign the telephone call, Chen repeated his request to go to the US with his family and asked to meet the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. He told the congressional hearing he wants to visit the country to rest and study, rather than seek asylum.

Chen can ‘apply through normal channels’

“Chen Guangcheng is currently being treated in hospital,” ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in a brief statement.

“If he wants to study abroad, he can apply through normal channels to the relevant departments in accordance with the law, just like any other Chinese citizen.”

Mr Chen is in a Beijing hospital, which has been surrounded by Chinese police.

US officials have been trying to gain access to Mr Chen’s room, with diplomats seen arriving at the hospital on Friday with gift bags.

Chen spent six days in the US embassy after he fled house arrest last month. But he left after accepting China’s assurances of his safety.

America’s ‘pawn’

He says he only realised the danger he was in and the extent of the threats made against his family after he left the embassy.

Several Chinese newspapers published articles on Friday, saying Chen was being used as a pawn by America.

US officials have said they will continue to work with Chen and his wife to find a solution.

Chen’s sadness and confusion

“He has absolutely no idea what is going to happen to him,” said Channel 4 News producer, Bessie Du after speaking to Chen on Wednesday.

“When I spoke to him he was alone in the hospital with his wife and his children and some nurses. I asked him if the US embassy staff are still with him and he said they are not. He said: ‘I don’t understand why as they promised they’ll be with me.’

“Then he started to cry, and said: ‘I’m very sad at the moment’. I asked him why, and he said it was because of his experience in the last few days.”