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China: Dissident Chen Guangcheng leaves US Embassy

Blind activist Chen Guangcheng was taken to the hospital after leaving the US Embassy in Beijing.

Blind chinese activist april 2012Enlarge
A visitor stands next to a piece of art work featuring blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng on displayed at the 798 art district in Beijing on January 9, 2012. (Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images)

The blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng has left the US Embassy in Beijing, where he has been sheltering since escaping house arrest in Shandong province last week.

The BBC says neither Beijing nor Washington had confirmed his presence at the embassy, but they had received confirmation of his departure from a US official and Chinese state media.

It quotes a brief report from the Xinhua news agency which said that Chen had entered the embassy and then left after six days "of his own volition."

More from GlobalPost: China's blind activist: watershed for human rights?

A senior US official reportedly told Reuters that Chen had arrived at a medical facility in Beijing to be treated and would then be reunited with his family.

Chen will remain in China, the official said, having received assurances from the Chinese government that he would be "treated humanely," allowed to relocate to a "safe environment" and attend university.

Chen said he now had "true freedom," his lawyer, Li Jinsong, told the BBC after speaking to the dissident by phone.

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Meanwhile, Reuters says that China's Foreign Ministry is "extremely unhappy" that the embassy had taken Chen in, and is demanding an apology from the US.

CNN reports that the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has arrived in Beijing, speculating that the visit would be overshadowed by the "diplomatic dilemma."

Shortly after her arrival, Clinton said she was "pleased that we were able to facilitate Chen Guangcheng's stay and departure from the US Embassy in a way that reflected his choices and our values," according to Reuters.

The US government would remain "engaged with Mr. Chen and his family in the days, weeks and years ahead," Clinton said.

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Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are scheduled to hold talks with their Chinese counterparts in Beijing about strategic and economic issues from tomorrow.

Chen is a blind self-taught lawyer who spent more than 19 months under what the Washington Post describes as "a kind of de facto house arrest in his farmhouse, surrounded by plainclothes thugs who prevented him and his family from leaving, and who roughed up journalists and activists who tried to visit him."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/china/120502/chinese-dissident-chen-guangcheng-leaves-us-embassy