US says Chinese dissident's visa is ready


Blind activist Chen Guangcheng with his wife and son outside the home in northeast China's Shandong province, March 28, 2005.



Washington said US visas for Chinese blind activist Chen Guangcheng and his family are ready and he can depart for America once Beijing grants him permission.

The Associated Press reported State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the paperwork was completed last week for him to study in New York.

China has said it would accept Chen's application for travel but it is still unclear what Beijing will do.

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Chen, a blind legal scholar and dissident, has been at the center of a diplomatic row between the US and China - and is now awaiting his future while staying at a Beijing hospital.

The blind activist, made a dramatic escape from house arrest in April to the US embassy in Beijing where he spent six days.

TIME reported he escaped extralegal house arrest on April 22 by scaling over walls and limping on for hours in his native Shandong province. On May 2, Chen left American custody and checked into a Beijing hospital after the Chinese agreed to allow him to attend a Chinese university to study law.

That arrangement seems to have broken down after Chen's family was threatened. He has since changed his mind, asking to go to the US.

On Tuesday, Republican Rep. Chris Smith described Chen's status at the hospital as "de facto house arrest." Chen told a US congressional hearing his elder brother and nephew had both been beaten by Chinese authorities since he fled house arrest in late April.