Activist can apply to study abroad: China

2012-05-04 10:00
Beijing - China's foreign ministry said on Friday that Chen Guangcheng, the blind activist at the centre of a major row over human rights, can apply to study abroad.

Chen escaped from house arrest in eastern China last month and sought refuge in the US embassy in Beijing, prompting China to demand a US apology for "interference" in its affairs. He has since said he wants to leave China.

"Chen Guangcheng is currently receiving treatment in hospital," said foreign ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin in a statement.

"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."

The comment came as the United States held new talks with Chen to try to resolve a diplomatic row over his next move, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A US embassy official spoke to the blind activist by telephone at a Beijing hospital and also met his wife, the official said. US Ambassador Gary Locke earlier said that the embassy had two conversations with Chen on Thursday.

Scramble for solution

Chen, who ran afoul of authorities for exposing forced abortions, left the embassy on Wednesday and was taken to a hospital after the US brokered a deal with Beijing allowing him to stay in a "safe" place in China.

He later said that he hoped to go to the United States, leaving US officials scrambling to find a new solution.

The crisis came just as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner visited Beijing for annual talks.

Several US lawmakers and rights activists have voiced outrage over US diplomats' willingness to accept China's guarantees on security, but officials insist that he never sought asylum during his time in the embassy.

Speaking to AFP on Friday Chen said he was in "great danger", and urged the Chinese government to respect commitments it made about his safety when he left the US embassy.

"I am in great danger.... I hope the government will respect the commitments to guarantee my rights agreed to between China and the United States," he said in a telephone interview.

Supporters beaten

Chen confirmed that he never raised a request for political asylum with the US government, but expressed worries that security personnel at the hospital were preventing US embassy officials from meeting him.

"They don't let the [US] embassy staff come in. I think there are some big problems," Chen said.

"I haven't seen them since the day before yesterday [Wednesday]."

Since entering the hospital, one Chinese official has visited him and discussed his situation, Chen said.

"It was an official from the petition bureau [handling complaints from the general public]. It is not useful to talk about this. My situation is very, very critical," he said.

Chen further expressed concerns over police beatings of supporters who had come to try to visit him at the hospital.

Read more on:    chen guangcheng  |  hillary clinton  |  china  |  us
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