China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that the dissident Chen Guangcheng can apply to study outside China in the same manner as more than 300,000 Chinese students already abroad, signaling a possible breakthrough in a diplomatic crisis that has deeply embarrassed the White House and threatens to sour relations with Beijing.
In a two-sentence statement posted on the ministry’s Web site, a spokesman, Liu Weimin, stated that should Mr. Chen wish to study abroad, he “can apply through normal channels to the relevant departments in accordance with the law, just like any other Chinese citizen.”
Speaking later at a press briefing, Mr. Liu said he was certain that “competent Chinese authorities will handle his application in accordance with the law.”
The announcement came hours after Mr. Chen, in a four-point statement conveyed by telephone to a friend, insisted that he did not want to seek political asylum in the United States but that he had been invited to attend New York University and hoped “to go to the United States and rest for several months.”
That would give Chinese officials a face-saving opportunity to allow Mr. Chen and his family to leave China in the same manner as do scores of thousands of Chinese students every year, according to Jerome A. Cohen, a New York attorney and expert on Chinese law who discussed the proposal with Mr. Chen this week. . .