Activist Chen Guangcheng Says Passport Application Done

Dissident Chen Guangcheng says he and his family have completed passport applications and officials say they should be ready within 15 days.

A passport would be the first step towards Chen Guangcheng leaving China.

Dissident Chen Guangcheng says he and his family have completed passport applications and officials say they should be ready within 15 days.

The blind activist said officials had helped him fill in the forms on Wednesday at the Beijing hospital where he is staying.

Mr Chen spent six days in the US embassy last month after escaping house arrest.

He wants to leave China and has been offered a place at a US university.

Mr Chen left the US embassy after six days to seek medical treatment but then said that he wanted to go to the US because he feared for his safety.

Amid a diplomatic crisis between the US and China over his fate, Mr Chen was offered a place to study law at New York University after Beijing said he would be allowed to apply to study abroad.

The US says the visas for Mr Chen and his family are ready.

'Trumped up' charges

Mr Chen said government officials came to see him on Wednesday and completed passport applications for him, his wife and their two children.

"They said the passports should be issued within 15 days," he told AFP news agency.

He said they also said they would investigate the treatment of his family in Shandong province.

On Tuesday Mr Chen accused local Chinese authorities of harassing his family in his hometown of Dongshigu village, as he spoke via telephone to a US congressional committee.

His nephew, Chen Kegui, has been charged with "intentional homicide" in the wake of Mr Chen's escape to Beijing.

Liu Weiguo, the lawyer for Chen Kegui, told the BBC last week that his client was acting in self-defence when he injured three people - none of them critically - who broke into his house on 27 April.

Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught lawyer who campaigned against forced abortions under China's one-child policy, was himself jailed for four years in 2006 for disrupting traffic and damaging property, and placed under house arrest after his release in 2010.