China said Chen Guangcheng could apply to study abroad, hours after the blind rights activist appealed to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for help to visit the U.S.
“Chen Guangcheng at present is in a hospital getting treatment,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said according to a statement. “If he wants to study abroad, he can like any Chinese citizen go through proper channels and relevant departments and procedures according to law.”
Liu’s comments were posted on the website of China’s Foreign Ministry as an increasing number of Chinese government, police and military vehicles, as well as the car of U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Wang, showed up today at the Beijing hospital where Chen was admitted May 2 after a six-day stay at the U.S. embassy.
After agreeing to a deal in which he would stay in China, Chen later expressed fears for his family’s safety, saying he wanted to leave China to rest “for a little while.”
“What it looks like is the Chinese central government is making at the very least symbolic moves to attempt to address U.S. government concerns about the fears of Chen Guangcheng about his and his family’s safety,” Phelim Kine, senior Asia researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in a phone interview.
— With assistance by Michael Forsythe, and Regina Tan