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'Elegant Solution' Possible For Chinese Activist; He May Study Abroad

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The news that China's Foreign Ministry now says legal activist Chen Guangcheng can apply to study abroad could be an "elegant solution [of] a really difficult diplomatic problem," NPR's Louisa Lim reported earlier on Morning Edition.

Chen has "a letter of invitation" from New York University, she says.

But, as Louisa also said, "it's really very difficult to know what's going on. The way the Chinese government makes decision is something that is not at all transparent. ... We don't know what will happen down the line."

Chen, as we've been reporting, has been harassed, arrested and beaten in the past because of his activism on the issue of forced abortions. On April 22, he escaped from house arrest and ended up finding shelter at the U.S. embassy in Beijing.

Wednesday, Chen left the embassy for medical treatment after getting what U.S. officials said were assurances from Chinese authorities that he would be allowed to live freely and take up legal studies. Within hours, though, Chen was pleading to be allowed to go to the U.S. — saying that he feared for his and his family's safety. His plight has overshadowed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's visit to China and has prompted criticism of the Obama administration's handling of Chen's case.

Chen, who is blind and is most often seen wearing sunglasses, has inspired an online "Dark Glasses" campaign to call attention to his plight.

Earlier today:

"Chen said he wanted to travel to the United States, but only temporarily, perhaps to study. 'It's not a one-time-only decision,' Chen told The Washington Post from his hospital room. 'It doesn't mean I won't come back. As a free person, I believe I am endowed with the right to leave China when I want to and come back anytime I want.' "

Update at 8:15 a.m. ET. Clinton Is Encouraged.

NPR's Michele Kelemen, who among the reporters traveling with Secretary Clinton, tells our Newscast Desk that:

"Secretary of State Clinton says that U.S. embassy staff met with Chen at the hospital where he's been since he left the U.S. embassy. He now wants to go to the U.S. to pursue his studies, she says, adding that she's encouraged by the official Chinese statement that he can apply to travel abroad.

" 'Progress has been made to help him have the future he wants and we will stay in touch with him as this process moves forward,' Clinton said."

And State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says in an email to reporters, Michele adds, that:

"The Chinese government has indicated that it will accept Mr. Chen's applications for appropriate travel documents. The United States government expects that the Chinese government will expeditiously process his applications for these documents, and make accommodations for his current medical condition. The United States government would then give visa requests for him and his immediate family priority attention."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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