US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday closed a tense visit to China with a fragile deal in hand over a top activist, with activists anxious to see if Beijing lets him leave the country.
After a turbulent week in ties between the Pacific powers, the United States said Friday China would move soon to allow blind rights campaigner Chen Guangcheng to go to the United States with his family to study.
New York University said it had invited him to study at the institution.
Chen, who has alleged beatings under house arrest in conditions that are unusually harsh even by Chinese standards, dramatically escaped and took refuge in the US embassy on April 26, days before Clinton was due on a visit.
US officials, saying that Chen never requested asylum, escorted him to a Beijing hospital on Wednesday and said China had assured his safety. But Chen later said he felt unsafe and wanted to leave China, at least temporarily.
T. Kumar, the Washington-based advocacy director for Amnesty International, welcomed the agreement but said it was critical to watch if China follows through and ends harassment of Chen’s family and those who assisted him.
Chen exposed forced abortions, some late in women’s pregnancies, and sterilisations under China’s “one-child” population control policy. He defied pressure to stay silent after a four-year jail term that ended in 2010.
The initial deal quickly escalated into a tussle in Washington. Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney called it a “day of shame” for President Barack Obama’s administration if reports — strongly denied by US officials — were true that it relayed Chinese threats against Chen’s family to him.
While Chen marked the biggest human rights crisis between the countries in years, US officials were relieved — and perhaps even surprised — that it did not derail the entire relationship.