Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, who is blind, arrived Saturday evening at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey with his wife and two children, hours after leaving a Beijing hospital and hurriedly placed on an airplane to the U.S., according to several media reports. The move by the Chinese government could signal the end of a tense diplomatic standoff between China and the United States, according to Reuters.
Chen escaped house arrest in northeastern China last month and sought refuge at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, which caused a huge diplomatic rift between the two countries while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was visiting Beijing to discuss improving economic relations between the two nations.
Chen's initial request to be allowed to study in the U.S. was turned down, but China's Foreign Ministry did say this month that he could apply to study abroad. However, today's move came as a welcomed surprise for Chen supporters.
"I'm obviously very happy," said Jiang Tianyong, a friend of Chen's. "When he boards the plane, he can finally say: 'I'm free'. At the same time, I feel a sense of regret because such a large country like China can't even tolerate a citizen like him to exist here."
According to a statement from State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, the government is "looking forward" to Chen's arrival.
"We also express our appreciation for the manner in which we were able to resolve this matter and to support Mr. Chen's desire to study in the U.S. and pursue his goals," the statement read.
Currently, there is no immediate indication about where Chen will pursue his studies, despite New York University's law school's offer of granting him the position of "visiting scholar."