Chinese Dissident Chen: Discussions on US Visa Under Way

Posted May 15th, 2012 at 3:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng says U.S. diplomats are holding discussions with their Chinese counterparts on plans for him to travel to New York for a teaching fellowship, but have been asked to maintain a low profile on the case.

In an interview with VOA, Chen said an official, sent and authorized by the central government, visited him in the hospital to discuss details of the trip to the United States.

Chen says he thinks the trip will take place eventually, despite the lack of substantial progress. U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Tuesday that the U.S. has finished processing his visa paperwork and that it has been ready for more than a week.

Chen also says his mother is now allowed to walk around the village without being shadowed, but his older brother is blocked from going out because of murder charges his son is facing.

Chen says the charges against his nephew are unfounded and that he has contacted a lawyer who has agreed to take up the case, despite pressure from authorities.

Chen was given a four-year prison sentence in 2006 for exposing abuses under China's forced abortion policy aimed at population control. He had been under house arrest since 2010, before fleeing on April 22 to the U.S. embassy in Beijing, where he remained for six days.

The self-taught legal activist agreed to depart the embassy under a deal reached by U.S. and Chinese authorities that would have allowed him to stay in a safe place in China and study law. But he changed his mind hours after leaving the embassy, saying his family had been threatened, and he wanted to go to the United States.

The activist, who has been blind since childhood, is at a Beijing hospital recovering from injuries sustained in his escape in late April.