05/16/2012, 00.00
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Chen Guangcheng tells US Congress about harassment against his family

The blind dissident speaks to the US Congress for a second time since his escape, complaining about Communist authorities in Shandong who have arbitrarily arrested his relatives and friends. US State Department confirms that a visa is waiting for him and his family, "when he and his government are ready."

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Blind dissident Chen Guangcheng spoke to the US Congress for a second time, accusing local Chinese authorities of harassing his family in Linyi, Shandong province, after his incredible escape. Meanwhile, US authorities said they were "ready" to welcome the activist, known for his fight against land grabs and forced abortions, to a New York university together with his family.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that US visas for Chen, his wife and two children have been approved and are ready whenever China acts on his request to study in America. A scholarship awaits him at New York University (NYU). Chinese authorities are expected to grant permission.

"We are ready when he and his government are ready," Nuland said.

The Chen Guangcheng affair broke out on 26 April when the dissident escaped from house arrest the authorities had imposed on him after four years of prison.

A diplomatic tug-of-war between Beijing and Washington began when he found refuge at the US Embassy in Beijing, at a time when the two nations were holding their annual bilateral summit.

After two days of impasse, the dissident left the embassy on the condition that he would be allowed to leave the country. At present, he is in a hospital under police guard.

Speaking to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Chen complained that some of his relatives were beaten.

His nephew, Chen Kegui, was also arrested on murder charges for using a knife in self-defence against police agents who had burst into his home in search of the dissident. The charges are far-fetched though because no one died.

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