Update: 05/04/12 at 3:46 pm

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BEIJING, May 4, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A deal may soon be brokered to allow Chen Guangcheng and his family to leave China to take up a fellowship at an America university, according to U.S. State Department officials.

The agreement was disclosed Friday morning, after the fellowship was offered and Beijing said they would accept Chen’s application to study at a university abroad.

Chen’s wife, who reports having been tied to a chair, beaten, and threatened with death by Chinese officials following her husband’s escape, and Chen’s children would also be allowed to leave the Communist country with him.

Beijing had previously indicated that the blind human rights activist would be free to attend a university and act as a free citizen, but those affirmations seemed less than firm: officials were meanwhile keeping Chen under police lockdown at a local hospital, at one point disallowing visits from U.S. officials.

Human rights advocates and U.S. politicians, including U.S. congressmen and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, had been placing increasing pressure on the Obama administration to ensure Chen’s safety after the whistleblower left the embassy where he had taken refuge after 19 months of brutal, extra-judicial house imprisonment at the hands of the Chinese government.

Chen has said that he was influenced to leave the U.S. embassy by news, conveyed at China’s request by an American official, that if he did not leave his wife would be sent back to their village where Chinese officials had already overrun their home, and where she would likely suffer severe maltreatment.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that embassy staff met Friday morning with Chen, who expressed his wish to flee to America “so he could pursue his studies,” and also affirmed that China, which she called a “great nation,” had expressed opennness to letting Chen study abroad.

“This is not just about well-known activists. It’s about the human rights and aspirations of more than a billion people here in China and billions more about the world, and the future of this great nation and all nations,” said Clinton.

Yet signs that the Chinese government is angered by the turnout have also emerged: Beijing Daily, a top government-controlled newspaper, called Chen “a tool and a pawn for American politicians to blacken China.”

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