A conflict between the U.S. and China over a Chinese activist escalated on Thursday, as U.S. officials said that Chen Guangcheng now wants to leave China for the U.S. with his family, the Associated Press reported. But some confusion still remains over the dissident’s intentions, and Chen's rapidly-changing situation has complicated talks between the U.S. and China that began this week.
A State Department spokeswoman said that U.S. officials spoke twice with Chen and his wife on Thursday and that, "they as a family have had a change of heart about whether they want to stay in China," the AP reported. Chen, who is blind, left the U.S. embassy on Wednesday to be treated at a Chinese hospital for injuries sustained after escaping house arrest.
The State Department's announcement is the latest in a chain of sometimes-conflicting reports on whether Chen hopes to stay in China or wants to leave to the United States, and the role the U.S. is playing in that decision. The New York Times, which interviewed Chen, reported on Thursday that he wants to leave the country.
The Washington Post reported that U.S. officials were barred from meeting with Chen in person, but that Chen wants to fly out of the country with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is in China.