The Foreign Ministry said Friday that Chen could submit an application to go abroad. His wife told Hong Kong broadcaster TVB on Saturday that applications for travel documents had not yet been started and no date has been set for them to leave.
The turn of events for Chen, while welcomed by most activists and dissidents, is seen as an individual victory that is not likely to pave the way for improvements in the government's attitude toward its critics.
"I think that after the Chen Guangcheng incident, the situation for us will just become worse and worse, because in today's society government power has no limits," said Liu Yi, an artist and Chen supporter who was assaulted Thursday by men he thinks were plainclothes police while he attempted to visit Chen in the hospital.
Liu Feiyue, a veteran activist who runs a rights monitoring network in the central province of Hubei, noted the importance of US involvement in Chen's case. "This is only an individual case. Because it turned into a China-US incident, the US put a lot of pressure on China, which is why the authorities made a concession to allow Chen Guangcheng to study overseas," he said.
"Not all dissident cases can become international issues," Liu Feiyue said.
Chen, a self-taught legal activist, is best known for exposing forced abortions and sterilizations in his community in a scandal that prompted the central government to punish some local officials. His activism earned him the wrath of local authorities, who punished him with nearly seven years of prison and house arrest.