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Blind dissident Chen Guangcheng and his immediate family have left China on a flight to the United States. They are expected to arrive in Newark, N.J., Saturday evening.
Their departure caps off three weeks of roller coaster diplomacy that reached the very highest levels of Chinese government and the White House.
Several media outlets, as well as human rights supporters in the U.S., cited late May as a potential departure date if all rules for passport applications were strictly adhered to.
But on Saturday, social media reports surfaced that said Chen had left the hospital. By midday, Chen spoke to the AFP and the Associated Press to say he was at the airport with his family and while he had no details, he believed they would be leaving that day.
State Dept Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed that Chen and his family left China so he can pursue studies at an American university.
The Chinese announced that Chen would be permitted to obtain a student visa that would allow him to go abroad. The U.S. promptly announced that he and his family would be given the appropriate visas without delay and confirmed that New York University had extended him an invitation to be a visiting scholar.
Chen Guangcheng leaves the country that sought to silence him. He also leaves his mother, older brother, nephew and others; friends and family he may never see again. In some ways it was his choice; in others it wasn't .
What is clear is this: today, his new life begins.
So... any speculation? Think he's a spy? Propaganda? Any ideas on what's in store for Mr. Chen while hes in and after his studies at NYU? Don't care?