State Department Says Chinese Dissident Chen En Route to U.S.

Posted: May 19, 2012 2:46 PM

Blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, whose escape from house arrest last month shook U.S.-Chinese relations, has left his native country on a flight bound for the United States.

"We can confirm that Chen Guangcheng, his wife and two children have departed China and are en route to the United States so he can pursue studies at an American university," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement. "We are looking forward to his arrival in the United States 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 U.S. and pursue his goals. "

Chen has been offered a fellowship by New York University. The possible solution to the diplomatic stand-off was raised earlier this month but observers were uncertain China would allow Chen to leave the country.

Earlier this month, Chen fled house arrest and sought refuse in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He left the embassy almost a week later protected by a deal between the U.S. and China that allowed him to take up residence with his family.

But Chen quickly changed his mind and asked for U.S. protection to leave the country, creating a dicey situation diplomatically for President Obama.

Chen said he intends to return to China in a few years but is taking "a leave of absence" from his activist causes, according to MSNBC.

Chen's United Airlines flight is scheduled to touch down in New Jersey sometime Saturday, according to reports.