Kathleen Gilbert

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China takes ‘first concrete step forward’, Chen could be released within days

Kathleen Gilbert
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BEIJING, May 16, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) -  Only hours after speaking to yet another U.S. Congressional hearing by telephone, Chinese forced-abortion opponent Chen Guangcheng has received the first sign of movement from the Chinese government towards granting him a passport, CNN reports.

According to the report, Chen was visited by local officials from his home province, who gave him passport forms. The human rights activist said it was “the first concrete step forward” since he submitted his passport application orally on May 6, a provision for blind individuals allowed in Chinese law, according to Rep. Chris Smith on Tuesday.

ChinaAid president Bob Fu said after the hearing that Chen should have a passport within 15 days of his initial application, by May 21. “If by May 21st, there’s no movement, there will be real concern,” Fu said yesterday, according to Bloomberg News.

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U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday, “We are ready when he and his government are ready” to take Chen to the United States, where several universities have offered him fellowships. “We have been [ready] for more than a week now in terms of his visa to come pursue his studies,” she said.

Although Chen and his supporters have emphasized the need to remove Chen’s immediate family from China, where the activist has suffered extra-judicial beatings and home imprisonment, they have increasingly focused on his extended family and friends, who also face severe repercussions.

At the Congressional hearing Tuesday, Chen highlighted the injustices to his nephew, Chen Kegui, who has been detained and charged with “intentional manslaughter” after friends say he non-fatally injured Chinese officials who broke into his home and assaulted his family following his uncle’s escape to the U.S. embassy late last month.

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