(BEIJING) — The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has released a statement saying blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng may apply to study abroad, a move which may be a hint at a possible resolution to the ongoing conflict as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to the country winds down.
The ministry said in a statement in its website that Chen, who is seeking treatment in a hospital after he escaped house arrest on April 22 and sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy, could apply for overseas study “in accordance with laws of relevant departments.”
“Chen Guangcheng is currently being treated in hospital. As a Chinese citizen, if he wants to study abroad he can go through the normal channels to the relevant departments and complete the formalities in accordance with the law like other Chinese citizens,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Chen, who is a self-taught lawyer, said in his statement Thursday that he has received an invitation from New York University.
Chen had told Congress on Thursday that he wants to meet with Clinton face-to-face and he requested to have his “freedom of travel guaranteed” as he looks to leave China with his family and come to the United States.
“I want to meet with the Secretary Clinton,” Chen, 40, said over speakerphone as a translator conveyed his words in English. “I hope I can get more help from her. I also want to thank her face to face.”
The blind Chinese activist, who generated international headlines ahead of Clinton’s attendance at a summit in China this week, phoned into a congressional hearing today to report to Congress the latest details of his predicament.
After a U.S.-brokered deal that allowed him to stay in China, Chen reportedly begged to depart Beijing on Clinton’s plane.
White House press secretary Jay Carney today defended the Obama administration’s diplomacy, insisting U.S. officials did not pressure Chen to stay in China when the deal was struck.
“At no point during his time in the embassy did Mr. Chen ever request political asylum in the U.S., and at every opportunity he expressed his desire to stay in China, be unified with his family, continue his education and work for reform in his country,” Carney told reporters today. “All of our diplomacy was directed at putting him in the best possible position to achieve his objectives.”
Carney, however, repeatedly sidestepped questions about how the White House plans to resolve the ongoing crisis and whether the U.S. would support Chen’s request for asylum, referring all inquiries to the State Department.
“We are in conversations now—not we, the State Department folks in Beijing—and I simply can’t give you a moment-by-moment update on that,” Carney said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN