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Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng heads to US

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After seven years of prison and house arrest, Chen made a daring escape from his rural village in late April and was given sanctuary inside the U.S. Embassy, triggering a diplomatic standoff over his fate. With Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Beijing for annual high-level discussions, officials struck a deal that let Chen walk free, only to see him have second thoughts, forcing new negotiations that led to an agreement to send him to the U.S. to study law — a goal of his. New York University and another school have offered to host him.

Moments after his departure from Beijing, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed that Chen was en route to the U.S. and praised the quiet negotiations that freed him.

"We are looking forward to his arrival in the United States later today," Nuland said in a statement. "We also express our appreciation for the manner in which we were able to resolve this matter and to support Mr. Chen's desire to study in the U.S. and pursue his goals."

China's Foreign Ministry said it had no comment. The government's news agency, Xinhua, issued a brief report saying that Chen "has applied for study in the United States via normal channels in line with the law."

Chen's supporters welcomed his departure. "I think this is great progress," said U.S.-based rights activist Bob Fu. "It's a victory for freedom fighters."

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