China says the blind dissident lawyer Chen Guangcheng can apply to study abroad. Chen, who moved to a hospital in Beijing from the US embassy, says Chinese police have him tightly guarded and he feels "really unsafe."
China's Foreign Ministry has floated a possible solution to the diplomatic row over blind dissident and lawyer Chen Guangcheng by saying he can apply "through normal channels" to study abroad.
The offer came on the second day of US-China consultations in Beijing. As they ended, visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that "progress has been made," but did not give a timeline for a negotiated outcome.
"We have been very clear and commited to honoring his choices and our values," Clinton said. "We will be staying in touch with him as this process moves forward."
Clinton added that US ambassador Gary Locke in further conversation with Chen on Friday had got confirmation from him that he wanted to go to the United States for study.
Phone call to Congress
On Thursday, Chen had made a dramatic phone call to members of the US Congress during a hearing in Washington and had asked lawmakers for help to travel to the US. Chen had also requested a direct meeting with Clinton in Beijing.
"I really am fearing for my family members' lives," Chen said via a Washington-based translator. "The thing I'm most concerned with now is the safety of my mother and brother."
'Normal channels' open
On Friday, a spokesman for China's foreign minister, Liu Weimin said: "If he wants to study abroad, as a Chinese citizen, he can apply through normal channels in accordance with the law, just like any other Chinese citizen."
Two weeks ago, Chen escaped house arrest, injuring himself in the process; spent six days at the US embassy and was then taken to the Beijing's Chaoyang Hospital on Wednesday under a US brokered deal in which the Chinese authorities were said to have agreed to allow him to stay in a "safe" place.
China: Chen US "pawn"
The Chinese government-backed newspaper Beijing Daily on Friday said Chen had become a "pawn" in a US attempt to "throw mud on China." China had already demanded an apology for what it called "interference" in its internal affairs.
Chen was shifted to unofficial house arrest from jail in 2010 after serving part of a four-year sentence. He had drawn the wrath of the authorities after exposing abuses under China's "one-child" population control policy, including forced sterilizations and late-term abortions.
ipj/pfd (dpa, AFP, AP)