CHINA and the US are close to working out a face-saving deal that would allow Chen Guangcheng to leave China with his wife and children, a US-based rights campaigner said yesterday.
News of the potential deal came as US diplomats scrambled to resolve a crisis precipitated after the blind human rights activist escaped from house arrest and reportedly sought US diplomatic protection.
Bob Fu, of the Texas-based group ChinaAid, which has been in contact with Mr Chen's supporters, said a deal was possible in the next 24 to 48 hours.
It is hoped that the deal can be concluded before Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, arrives in Beijing for high-level US-China strategic and economic dialogue, which begins on Thursday.
"The Chinese top leaders are deliberating a faster solution and the decision could come soon," Mr Fu said.
Mr Fu said granting Mr Chen permission to travel to the US for medical treatment with his family was emerging as the most obvious way to avoid an impasse from poisoning US-China relations.
Mr Chen, who had initially indicated he wanted to remain in China, accepts that it is now unrealistic, given the high-profile nature of his case.
"If Chen wants to find safety and freedom for his family, leaving China might be the only option left. The situation is so intense, he has no other choice but to leave now," said Mr Fu, a former teacher at the Communist Party School, which fights for Christian rights in China.
The US State Department has refused to comment on the case and will not confirm or deny if Mr Chen is in its custody.
Yesterday, the European Union called on China not to harass Mr Chen's family and associates after reports that several fellow activists, including those who aided his escape, have been taken into custody. His nephew Chen Kegui is said to be on the run from the authorities.
Mr Chen, a self-taught lawyer who was imprisoned after he revealed that forced sterilisations were being carried out under China's one-child policy, escaped from his home in Shandong province on April 22, after almost 20 months under house arrest, during which time he claimed that he was badly beaten.
He reportedly sought US protection last Thursday afternoon, after releasing a video on YouTube challenging the country's prime minister, Wen Jiabao, to investigate his brutal treatment at the hands of the local authorities in Shandong. (© Daily Telegraph, London)