Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng said Monday from his hospital bed in Beijing that he is confident he will be allowed to travel to the U.S. with his family, despite being denied visits from American officials for several days.
Since the Chinese government has promised to safeguard my constitutionally provided rights and freedom and safety, I feel that they will fulfill their commitments because it is after all an agreement between two countries, Chen told the Associated Press.
U.S. and Chinese officials have been working out a deal to let Chen and his family come to the U.S. under a university fellowship after the blind, self-taught legal activist escaped house arrest in Linyi village in Shandong province on April 22, and was transported by supporters to the U.S. embassy in Beijing, where he sought political asylum.
Chen was being held under house arrest for 19 months for speaking out against forced abortions in China, which he claims are carried out as part of the government's population control efforts.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview with NBC Sunday that the U.S. is prepared to grant Chen a visa right away.
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I think his [Chen's] future is in America... The Chinese have told us that if he files the papers to be able to go abroad, that will be granted, Biden said. We are prepared to give a visa right away. He is going to be able to take his family. We expect the Chinese to stick to that commitment.
Chen, 40, broke several bones in his foot during his escape and required medical attention. After agreeing to leave the U.S. embassy on April 28, Chen was taken to a hospital in Beijing where he currently remains with his wife and two children.
Chen said that in addition to his foot injury, he is also suffering from an intestinal inflammation and will not be able to travel to the U.S. until he had recovered, the Washington Post reported.
I don't think I will go to the U.S. very soon, he told the Post in a telephone interview Sunday.
Chen is currently in the process of filling out the paperwork to obtain travel documents for himself and his family.
I entrusted the hospital with telling the relevant people or department that I have asked them to handle it on my behalf, because I am lying on the bed and I can't move and my friends can't come and see me, so what can I do? I can only ask them, he told AP Monday.
Chinese authorities have denied American officials visits to Chen since May 4, though they have been allowed to contact him by phone on a daily basis. The U.S. has pressured China to expedite Chen's visa process, but China has not indicated that it will.
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in statement May 4 that if Chen wants to study abroad, he can, like any Chinese citizen, go through proper channels and relevant departments and procedures according to law, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Chen has been offered a fellowship at New York University, said law professor Jerome Cohen, though he is not sure if Chen will accept or decide to go somewhere in the U.S., AP reported
Cohen, who has been providing legal advice to Chen, added that he felt China would follow through with the agreement.
I don't think this is empty talk here. I think they mean this is a way out, and it's a dignified way out, Cohen told AP. It's a good way out for the Chinese government and our government and for Chen and his family.