Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠) left China for the US with his family yesterday, the US Department of State said.
The departure of Chen brings to an end a month-long diplomatic incident that began when he fled house arrest for the US embassy in Beijing and later said he wanted to leave China for his and his family’s safety.
“We can confirm that Chen Guangcheng, his wife and two children have departed China and are en route to the US so he can pursue studies at an American university,” the department’s spokesperson Victoria Nuland said in a statement.
“We are looking forward to his arrival in the US later today. 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 US and pursue his goals,” she added.
The 40-year-old self-taught lawyer arrived at Beijing international airport earlier yesterday, having left the hospital in the Chinese capital where he had stayed for more than two weeks waiting for permission to leave.
Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), a lawyer and close friend of Chen’s, said he talked to him just before 3pm and learned that he and his family had received the passports promised by the Chinese authorities.
Chen fled his closely guarded village home in Shandong Province on April 22 under the noses of plainclothes security officers, with help from supporters.
In a video address to Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) that was posted online, Chen said he had suffered repeated beatings while under house arrest since 2010, and expressed serious concerns for the safety of his wife and family.
He arrived at the US embassy in Beijing several days later, less than a week before US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was scheduled to visit China for one of the most important Sino-US meetings of the year.
When contacted earlier yesterday, Chen had said there was still no news regarding plans for him and his family to leave China for the US, suggesting that he was told at the last minute to go to the airport.