8:36am

Thu May 17, 2012
The Two-Way

Activist Chen May Soon Have Passport, Be Able To Leave China

Legal activist Chen Guangcheng has reportedly finished submitting applications to Chinese authorities and has been told that he and his immediate family could be issued passports within the next two weeks.

That would then allow him to come to the United States.

Chen, who overcame blindness to become a self-trained lawyer and went on to anger authorities with his work exposing a policy of forced abortions, has been at a Beijing hospital since leaving the U.S. embassy in the Chinese capital on May 2. He had been sheltered at the embassy for six days, after his escape from house arrest. He's being treated for a foot injury suffered during that escape.

Since Chen's flight from house arrest, refuge at the embassy and decision to leave there, his case has been closely watched around the world. He wants to leave China because he fears for his own and his family's safety. Chinese authorities have accused the U.S. of interfering in that nation's internal affairs. Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to resolve the situation appear to have been making progress.

Wednesday on Talk of the Nation, fellow activist Bob Fu told NPR's Neal Conan that he had spoken with Chen that morning and:

"He said that for the first time the passport issue has substantial progress. This morning, China time, ... security officers from Shandong Province came to him and [made] him fill the forms for a passport application and obviously asked him to wait within 15 days. He was promised to have his family's passports. The U.S. said their visa have been approved already for a week. So it could, you know, happen in five days to 15 days."

Whether it all will come together that quickly remains to be seen, of course.

According to the BBC, Chen has told the news network that "government officials came to see him on Wednesday and completed passport applications for him, his wife and their two children. He said the officials told him the passport would take 15 days to issue, without giving a definite date."

"They didn't promise when we'll get the passport," Chen told the BBC. "They didn't say anything like we will definitely get the passport on a certain day, etc. There was nothing like that told to us."

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