A senior administration official told Foreign Policy magazine that Chinese dissident activist Chen Guangcheng was in such poor health when he entered the US embassy in Beijing last week that officials feared he might have advanced colon cancer.
"When Chen entered the embassy and was examined by our doctor, he was found to be bleeding profusely from his rectum," the official told Foreign Policy, stating that the American doctor on hand at the embassy concluded that the cause was either a severe case of gastroenteritis or advanced stage colon cancer.
Foreign Policy said the fear that Chen might have a fatal disease was what pushed officials to get Chen to a local hospital, because the Chinese would not allow medical equipment to enter the embassy.
The Washington Post confirmed that Chen, who is blind, had injured his foot during his dramatic escape and was also suffering from enteritis, an inflamed intestine.
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Chen's daring escape from under unofficial house arrest made international headlines and caused a diplomatic crisis between China and the US while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was visiting the country on a previously scheduled visit to hold talks.
He Peirong, the woman who drove Chen to Beijing from Shandong in eastern China, said security officials told her, "They thought more than one hundred people were watching a blind man and they could let the blind man escape? They felt it was inconceivable," according to Reuters. She added, "They couldn't believe it was true. They kept on asking me: did this really happen?"
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Though initial reports suggested that the Chinese government had agreed to understandings that would allow Chen to leave the embassy and continue his studies, the unnamed senior official told Foreign Policy that Chen changed his mind after speaking to fellow activists and his wife and decided he had to leave China.
On Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden said Chen's future lay in America and said the Chinese had assured US diplomats that they would allow Chen to go abroad to study. Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," Biden said, "We expect the Chinese to stick to that commitment."
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