BEIJING — A blind Chinese legal activist who was suddenly allowed to leave the country arrived in the United States on Saturday, ending a nearly monthlong diplomatic tussle that tested U.S.-China relations.
Chen Guangcheng, 40, had been hurriedly taken from a hospital hours earlier and put on a plane after Chinese authorities suddenly told him to pack and prepare to leave. He, his wife and their two children arrived Saturday evening at Newark Liberty International Airport.
After seven years of prison and house arrest, Chen made a daring escape from his rural village in April and was given sanctuary inside the U.S. Embassy, triggering a diplomatic standoff over his fate. With Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Beijing for annual discussions, officials struck a deal that let Chen walk free, only to see him have second thoughts. That forced new negotiations that led to an agreement to send him to study law, a goal of his, at New York University.
Chen said his concerns included whether authorities would retaliate by punishing his relatives left behind. It also was unclear whether the government would allow him to return.
Before he left China, Chen asked his supporters and other activists to understand his desire to leave the front lines of the country's rights struggle.
"I am requesting a leave of absence, and I hope that they will understand," he said.
China's government news agency issued a brief report saying that Chen "has applied for study in the United States via normal channels in line with the law."