May 4, 2012


[Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said in a statement that Mr. Chen had been “offered a fellowship from an American university, where he can be accompanied by his wife and two children.” The statement said the United States would “give visa requests for him and his immediate family priority attention.” It also called on the Chinese government to “expeditiously process” his application for travel documents.]

By  And 

BEIJING — In her first public comments on the dissident Chen Guangcheng since arriving in China, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Friday that she was encouraged by “progress” in a diplomatic crisis that has deeply embarrassed the White House and threatens to sour relations with Beijing, but that more work needed to be done.
Speaking at a news conference at the end of two days of economic and security talks that have been overshadowed by Mr. Chen’s case, Mrs. Clinton said she was encouraged by a statement earlier on Friday from China’s Foreign Ministry that said Mr. Chen could apply to study outside China. The proposal appeared to offer the possibility of a breakthrough in the crisis.
Mrs. Clinton said that progress had been made “to help him have the future that he wants” and referred to the ministry’s statement as well as a visit by American Embassy staff and an American doctor to Mr. Chen in a Beijing hospital on Friday, the first time they were able to see him in person since late Wednesday.
“But there is more work to do, so we will stay engaged as this moves forward,” she said.
In the two-sentence statement posted on the ministry’s Web site, a spokesman, Liu Weimin, stated that should Mr. Chen wish to study abroad, as more than 300,000 Chinese students do, he “can apply through normal channels to the relevant departments in accordance with the law, just like any other Chinese citizen.”
Speaking later at a news briefing, Mr. Liu said he was certain that “competent Chinese authorities will handle his application in accordance with the law.”
The announcement came hours after Mr. Chen, in a four-point statement conveyed by telephone to a friend, insisted that he did not want to seek political asylum in the United States but that he had been invited to attend New York University and hoped “to go to the United States and rest for several months.”
That would give Chinese officials a face-saving opportunity to allow Mr. Chen and his family to leave China, according to Jerome A. Cohen, a New York lawyer and expert on Chinese law who discussed the proposal with Mr. Chen this week.
Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said in a statement that Mr. Chen had been “offered a fellowship from an American university, where he can be accompanied by his wife and two children.” The statement said the United States would “give visa requests for him and his immediate family priority attention.” It also called on the Chinese government to “expeditiously process” his application for travel documents.
Despite the developments, it appeared unlikely that there would be a final resolution of the case before Mrs. Clinton leaves Saturday evening for Bangladesh and India.
Mr. Chen has been in a central Beijing hospital receiving treatment for an injured foot since Wednesday, when he left the American Embassy under an agreement between American and Chinese diplomats that would have allowed him to study law in Tianjin, a major city on China’s Pacific coast. The crisis worsened after Mr. Chen came to believe that the Chinese government would not honor the bargain and began telling friends from his hospital bed that he feared for his and his family’s safety.
Mr. Chen’s subsequent pleas for help from Mrs. Clinton — repeated in an urgent telephone call played on speaker during an emergency Congressional hearing in Washington on Thursday — frayed the fragile deal American officials had struck with the Chinese before the start of high-level talks between China and the United States.
American diplomats have worked frantically to recoup, but they had been barred by the Chinese even from visiting Mr. Chen in his hospital room.
Senior American officials have privately acknowledged missteps by diplomats rushing to wrap up negotiations on the Chen case before the two days of economic and security talks, led by Mrs. Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. Those missteps included a failure to guarantee access to Mr. Chen at the hospital or to gain firm assurances from Chinese officials on how he would be treated.
The diplomatic miscues in China became a campaign issue for President Obama as his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, seized upon the apparently bungled release of Mr. Chen. Republican lawmakers and rights activists have accused the Obama administration of leaving one of China’s most prominent dissidents at the mercy of the Chinese police.
In a telephone conversation with The Associated Press, Mr. Chen said his wife was being followed by men who are recording her movements on video and that his own conversations with American officials were being cut off after a couple of sentences.
The Obama administration has been bombarded with criticism from human rights activists and Republican critics that it had botched its handling of a major human rights case and placed one of China’s most famous rights activists in jeopardy.
Mr. Chen’s initial remarks fueled those attacks. In a telephone conversation on Thursday with The New York Times, he said that Chinese government guarantees of his safety were “empty talk” and that he had left the embassy the previous day in part because of Chinese threats that his family would be harmed if he did not agree to leave.
“The U.S. Embassy treated me well,” he said, “but the U.S. government was not proactive enough.”
In brief telephone conversations with news services on Friday, Mr. Chen continued to express concern for his and his family’s safety. But he has backed away from earlier implicit criticisms of American efforts to assist him, instead expressing deep gratitude for diplomatic help from the United States.
In posts on Twitter and a Chinese microblog, a friend who assisted in Mr. Chen’s flight to the American Embassy, Guo Yushan, said Mr. Chen had told him he was “totally astonished” by the crisis his earlier statements had provoked. Mr. Guo said he had talked at length with Mr. Chen late Thursday and posted a summary of their talk on Friday.
“He never complained, either directly or indirectly, that the United States Embassy forced or induced him to leave the embassy. He left the embassy voluntarily and appreciates very much the United States Embassy’s help during the past week,” he wrote.
Mr. Chen “has much respect for China-U.S. diplomatic efforts,” he wrote, and “is very much aware of the importance of diplomacy between the two countries and the seriousness of all agreements that have already been reached.”
The two governments have been juggling one of the most disruptive diplomatic issues in years since Mr. Chen, a blind lawyer and rights activist who has exposed abuses of China’s one-child policy, escaped house arrest in Shandong Province late last month. Helped by friends, he made his way 300 miles to Beijing, where American officials secretly brought him to the embassy.
Angry and embarrassed, Chinese officials berated the Americans for giving Mr. Chen sanctuary and demanded an investigation. But the state-controlled news media has said little on the matter until Friday, when a handful of newspapers published commentaries accusing the United States of using Mr. Chen’s situation to smear China’s reputation.
Similar broadsides were notably absent from the Communist Party’s major official publications, suggesting that party leaders want to play down the issue.
The United States appeared to share that view. At the Great Hall of the People on Friday, Mrs. Clinton and President Hu Jintao exchanged cordialities before cameras without mentioning the diplomatic tiff that has dominated what was supposed to be a working visit by American officials.
“We believe that the China-U.S. relationship is stronger than it’s ever been,” Mrs. Clinton told Mr. Hu.
Chinese authorities continued on Friday to monitor friends and supporters of Mr. Chen. One activist who had vanished after Mr. Chen entered the embassy, He Peirong, reappeared and stated in a Twitter post that she was safely at home.
But a second close friend, Jiang Tianyong, said in an interview on Friday that plainclothes police abducted him, interrogated him through the night and beat him, badly damaging his hearing, after he tried to visit Mr. Chen in the hospital early Thursday evening. A third dissident, Liu Yanping, was also detained Friday after she tried to deliver a birthday cake to Mr. Chen’s son at the Chaoyang Hospital.
Ai Weiwei, the internationally known artist and government critic who was detained for three months last year, said Ms. Liu’s act appeared designed to publicly underscore the government’s restrictions on Mr. Chen. He said Mr. Chen’s release was unlikely to signal any improvement in China’s human rights climate.
“For other people, there is no sense of change,” he said. “In fact, for others, the situation could be getting worse. Mrs. Clinton should take notice.”
Sharon LaFraniere contributed reporting, and Edy Yin, Mia Li, Li Bibo and Bree Feng contributed research.