Chen, family leaves for US after getting passports

Beijing: Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, who was at the centre of an extraordinary diplomatic crisis between China and US for over month, today left for New York with his family after the Chinese government granted them passports. Chen, along with his wife and two children boarded a flight to Newark, near New York, after being taken from a Beijing hospital to the capital`s airport here.

State-run Xinhua news agency in a brief report said "Chen a native of Yinan county of east China`s Shandong province, has applied for study in the United States via normal channels in line with the law". He was offered fellowship in New York University to study law.

Chen, who has been speaking to the international media over the phone despite heavy security at the hospital told journalists before his departure that his mind was flooded by thousands of thoughts and hoped that his supporters would show some understanding as needed a respite.

US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the administration was looking forward to welcoming Chen to the US, and expressed "appreciation for the manner in which we were able to resolve this matter". Bob Fu, president of the US activist group, China Aid, and a key supporter of Chen, told the BBC that the dissident was planning to stay in New York for two to three years.

"Of course he wants to spend some time to rest after seven years of brutal treatments at the hands of the Chinese local authorities," Fu said. The visually impaired human rights activist, a self taught lawyer, set off extraordinary diplomatic crisis between the two countries after US officials helped him sneak into their embassy, a week before the high-level bilateral strategic and economic dialogue attended among others by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton early this month.