Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng was on a plane headed for the United States with his family Saturday, US officials said, ending weeks of uncertainty for the now world-famous rights campaigner.
Chen’s escape from house arrest, turning up at the US embassy before leaving again, also caused a major diplomatic rift between Washington and Beijing, with China telling the US to keep its nose out of Chinese affairs.
“We can confirm that Chen Guangcheng, his wife and two children have departed China and are en route to the United States so he can pursue studies at an American university,” the US State Department’s spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.
The departure of Chen, 40, caps an odyssey that began a month ago when he fled his rural home for the US mission in Beijing and later said he wanted to leave China for his and his family’s safety.
Chen had been told earlier in the day at short notice to pack his belongings and leave the Beijing hospital where he had been waiting for more than two weeks for permission to depart from China, taking his young family with him.
The United Airlines flight for New York believed to be carrying Chen and his family was originally scheduled at 3.45pm (0745 GMT) but left at about 6.00pm, according to airport staff.