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Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng's next step: Study at a US university? (+video)

The US says prominent Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng has been offered a fellowship by a US university. The US State Department said it would move quickly to provide a visa for Mr. Chen and his family.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks about Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng's case, "progress has been made to help him have the future he wants," she told reporters.
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The Chinese government said Friday that blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng was free to apply for travel documents enabling him to study abroad, hinting at a possible solution to a crisis that has bedeviled US relations with China for a week.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was “encouraged” by the Chinese announcement, but cautioned that “there is more work to do” before Mr. Chen’s fate is settled.

“Progress has been made to help him have the future he wants. We will stay in touch with him as this process moves forward,” Ms. Clinton told reporters.

Earlier in the day, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said that if Chen wanted to study abroad “he can go through normal procedures at related departments according to the law, like any other Chinese citizen.”

Chen told reporters during the past two days that he would like to study in the United States. He had been expected to study in China under a deal negotiated between US and Chinese diplomats while Chen was sheltering in the US embassy here.

Allowing Chen to study abroad would be “a very appropriate way to resolve what was becoming a much too overheated dilemma,” says Jerry Cohen, a veteran Chinese law expert and friend of Chen’s, who advised the activist by phone during the negotiations.

It was unclear how long it might take for Chen and his family to secure the necessary travel documents; Chen himself does not have a passport, and under normal circumstances he would have to return to his hometown to apply for one.

He is unlikely to be willing to do that, since officials from his hometown had kept him and his family under illegal house arrest for 19 months, repeatedly beating him and his wife. Chen took refuge in the US Embassy in Beijing last week after a daring night time escape from his guards.

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