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After diplomatic row, Chinese activist leaves for US

May 19, 2012 19:35 IST

Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, who was at the centre of an extraordinary diplomatic crisis between China and the United States, on Saturday left for New York with his family after the Chinese government granted them passports.

Chen, along with his wife and two children boarded a flight to Newark, near New York, after being taken from a Beijing hospital to the airport.

State-run Xinhua news agency, in a brief report, said. "Chen, a native of Yinan County of east China's Shandong province, has applied for studies in the United States via normal channels in line with the law".

He was offered a fellowship in New York University to study law.

Chen, who has been speaking to the international media over the phone despite heavy security at the hospital, told journalists before his departure that his mind was flooded by
thousands of thoughts and hoped that his supporters would show some understanding as he needed a respite.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the administration was looking forward to welcoming Chen to the US, and expressed "appreciation for the manner in which we were able to resolve this matter".

Bob Fu, president of the US activist group China Aid and a key supporter of Chen, told the BBC that the dissident was planning to stay in New York for two to three years.

"Of course he wants to spend some time resting after seven years of brutal treatment at the hands of the Chinese local authorities," Fu said.

The visually impaired human rights activist, a self taught lawyer, set off an extraordinary diplomatic crisis between the two countries after US officials helped him sneak into their
embassy, a week before the high-level bilateral strategic and economic dialogue attended among others by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Details of how he managed to enter the US embassy, monitored closely by Chinese authorities, are still a mystery.

On May 2, he was brought out by the US Ambassador to China Garry Locke in his limousine and then admitted to a hospital for treatment to injuries suffered while scaling a wall.

While an angry China demanded an apology from the US, Chen created further rupture by openly pleading for asylum for him and his family.

China finally allowed him to leave the country while Washington came forward to provide him and his family with visas.

Chen was the second Chinese to sneak into the US mission in China.

In February, Wang Lijun, police chief of Chongqing city, took refuge in the US Consulate in Changdu fearing a threat to his life from local Communist Party head Bo Xilai.

Wang subsequently came out and surrendered to the police.

The incident set off a major political crisis in China as Bo was subsequently stripped of all his posts and investigated for indiscipline. His wife Gu Kailai was arrested in connection with the murder of a British citizen.

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