The Chinese government said on Friday that dissident Chen Guangcheng can apply for study abroad, just like any other Chinese citizen, according to The New York Times. Meanwhile, the U.S. said that Chen has been offered a fellowship at a U.S. school and expects China to accept his application, Reuters reports.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told Reuters that an American university had offered Chen a fellowship, and when he traveled he could be accompanied by his wife and two children.
"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," Nuland said.
Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the U.S. was encouraged by China's progress on the matter, according to Reuters.
The development comes as high-level talks between the U.S. and China were threatened by the days-long diplomatic dispute between the two countries over Chen's status.
Clinton told reporters in Beijing that "progress has been made," adding:"We have been very clear and committed to honoring his choices and our values," Reuters reported.
A two-sentence statement posted on China’s Foreign Ministry website on Friday said that Chen “can apply through normal channels to the relevant departments in accordance with the law, just like any other Chinese citizen.”
The news comes after Chen conveyed through a friend a message that he did not want to seek political asylum in the U.S., but that he had been invited to attend New York University and that he wanted to “rest for several months.”
Chen, who is blind, escaped house arrest last month and sought sanctuary at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He left the embassy on Wednesday to seek medical treatment, but once out of U.S. custody he seemed to have a change of heart about whether he wanted to stay in China with his family.
Clinton said: “This is not just about well-known activists; it is about the human rights and aspirations of more than a billion people in China and billions more around the world.”