Chinese Activist to Receive Passports in Two Weeks

Posted May 17th, 2012 at 4:00 am (UTC-5)
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Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng says he and his family will be issued passports to leave the country within the next two weeks.

The blind activist told Western reporters Thursday that officials brought visa applications for him and his family to fill out the day before, and told him it would take at least 15 days before they are approved. Once Chen and his family receive the passports, they can travel to the United States, where he has been offered a fellowship by New York University.

Chen fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing last month after escaping repressive house arrest in Shangdong province. He left the embassy and entered a hospital for treatment, after agreeing to a deal reached by U.S. and Chinese authorities that would allow him to stay in a “safe” place in China and study law.

But he changed his mind hours after leaving U.S. protection, saying his family had been threatened.

Officials in Shangdong province have charged Chen Guangcheng's nephew, Chen Kegui, with attempted homicide after he allegedly attacked local officials who broke into the elder Chen's house after his escape.

The advocacy group Chinese Human Rights Defenders say they have learned that Chen Guangcheng's brother, Chen Guangfu, was tortured by authorities shortly after the other man's escape.

Chen is a self-taught lawyer and human rights activist who has been blind since childhood. He was given a four-year prison sentence in 2006 for exposing abuses under China's forced abortion policy aimed at population control. He was then subjected to an abusive house arrest after his release from prison in 2010.