China, US settle row over blind dissident Chen

China and the US appeared to have found a way out of a messy diplomatic row, with Beijing agreeing to let a blind Chinese dissident at the centre of the crisis to leave the country.

Beijing: China and the US on Friday appeared to have found a way out of a messy diplomatic row, with Beijing agreeing to let a blind Chinese dissident at the centre of the crisis to leave the country and Washington assuring all assistance to give him asylum.

The Chinese government, which earlier demanded an apology from the US for allowing human rights activist c Guangcheng to take shelter in its embassy gave in today and said that he could apply to obtain necessary travel documents to go abroad.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in a press release that Chen may apply to study abroad according to China`s laws.

Answering a host of questions, Liu later told a media briefing that Chen could get a passport.

His "criminal record" of the past may not come in the way as he has already served sentence in a previous case, he said.

The blind activist, who is convalescing in a hospital here appealed to US leaders yesterday for political asylum for him and his family.

Appreciating China`s softening of stand on Chen, whose week-long stay in the US embassy virtually overshadowed the two-day high level US-China strategic and economic dialogue here, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington would provide all necessary assistance.

Talking to the media after the conclusion of the two-day dialogue, Clinton told the media here that Chen has confirmed to the US Ambassador to China Garry Locke today, that he wants to go the US along with his wife and two children to pursue studies there.

"In that regard we are also encouraged by the official statement issued by the Chinese government confirming that he can apply to travel abroad to pursue his studies," she said.

"Over the course of the day progress has been made to help
him about the future that he wants. We will be staying in touch with him as this process move forward," Clinton said.

At the same time, she said the US would continue to engage with the Chinese government over human rights issues.

"Let me also add that it is not about the well known activist. It is about human rights and aspiration of more than billion people here in China and billion more around the world and future of this great nation and all nations," she said.

"We will continue to engage with the Chinese government at the highest levels putting these concerns at the heart of our diplomacy. I think we have been very clear and committed to honouring both his choices and our values," she said.

State-run CCTV which began telecasting her press conference live abruptly disconnected it.

In a separate statement, State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland said "the Chinese Government stated today that Mr Chen Guangcheng has the same right to travel abroad as any other citizen of China".

Chen has been offered a fellowship from an American university, where he can be accompanied by his wife and two children.

"The Chinese Government has indicated that it will accept Chen`s applications for appropriate travel documents. The United States Government expects that the Chinese Government will expeditiously process his applications for these documents and make accommodations for his current medical condition.

"The United States Government would then give visa requests for him and his immediate family priority attention. This matter has been handled in the spirit of a cooperative US-China partnership," she said.


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