A car from the US embassy in Beijing arrives at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital Wednesday, where activist Chen Guangcheng was believed to get a checkup. Photo: AFP
Chen Guangcheng may apply to study abroad through legal means like other Chinese citizens, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release on Friday.
"If he hopes to study abroad, as a Chinese citizen, he can apply according to laws with relevant departments and through the same channels as other Chinese citizens," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin replied when asked to make a comment on reports that Chen wished to study abroad.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday that she saw "progress" in resolving the Chen Guangcheng incident, and was "encouraged" by Beijing's statement.
"Progress has been made to help him have the future that he wants. We will be staying in touch with him as this process moves forward," Clinton said at the press conference at the end of the two-day China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue held in Beijing.
On Thursday night, Chen reportedly made a telephone call to US officials, asking the US to take him away on Hillary Clinton's plane.
"China has offered a normal option. Both want to minimize the incident's impact on the general picture of Sino-US relations," Cui Liru, President of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Friday, noting that unilaterally taking a Chinese citizen out of China without going through legal procedures is unrealistic.
The human rights issue has become a political tool for the US to use at the negotiation table and there is no need for China to dodge it, Cui said.
Meanwhile, the Sino-US talks concluded on Friday with both parties reaching several significant agreements.
"The theme and results of the dialogue have apparently proven that the general development of Sino-US relations will not be damaged by an isolated single incident," Cui noted.
The conflicts and divergence in issues such as human rights between both countries is a long-term issue and will continue due to different perspectives, situations and development stages, Cui noted.
"But once the differences clash with the other issues concerning major interests and rights, both sides will weigh the pros and cons and decide which deserves the top priority," Cui said.
Chen Guangcheng, a native of Yinan county in East China's Shandong Province, is currently receiving treatment at hospital, according to the spokesman.
Chen, a blind Chinese legal activist, entered the US embassy in Beijing in late April and left of his own volition after staying there for six days on Tuesday.
Foreign media analyzed that China's response on Friday might be a signal that Chen will be given the green light to leave China.
The US officials said Friday that China has agreed to move "expeditiously" to provide travel documents to activist Chen Guangcheng. But they declined to give a timeframe or to say whether they had firm assurances from the Chinese government.
"Cooperation and friendliness will be a mainstream for Sino-US relations. The world's two largest economies know clearly that pragmatic economic strategic interests are vital to each other," Li Haidong, an associate professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times, noting that neither side wants to damage relations due to individual cases.
Separately, an American university has reportedly offered a fellowship to Chen and agreed for him to be accompanied by his wife and two children, Reuters reported on Friday, quoting US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
"The Chinese government has indicated that it will accept Chen's applications for appropriate travel documents," she added. "The US government would then give visa requests for him and his immediate family priority attention."
Xu Ming and agencies contributed to this story