Beijing - In an expected turn of events blind activist Chen Guangcheng spoke by phone with members of the US Congress. During the call, he asked US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to help him and his family go to the United States. This is exceptional since Chen has been held in isolation in a hospital for the past two days after he left the US Embassy.
Mr Chen told Rep Chris Smith, who was chairing a hearing at the Congressional commission on Chen's situation, "I want to meet with Secretary Clinton. I hope I can get more help from her."
Chen added that he wanted his "freedom of travel guaranteed" because "He wants to come to the US for some time of rest, as he did not have any rest in the past 10 years".
The blind activist was sentenced to four years and half in prison for filing a lawsuit protesting forced sterilisations in Shandong as well as helping peasants seek redress against forced land grabs.
After coming out of prison in 2010, he was placed under house arrest without charges with his wife and daughter in Linyi with 24-hour police and CCTV surveillance, often physically abused and threatened.
On 22 April, he fled with the help of other dissidents and some villagers to the safety of the US Embassy in Beijing a few days before a US-Chinese economic summit.
Before the summit, Chen was convinced to go to a hospital on the promise that US diplomats would help him (pictured). However, as soon as he arrived, US diplomats disappeared and the hospital ward where he was staying with his wife and children was surrounded by police.
Journalists who tried to meet him were stopped and forced back. Activists and dissidents were also sent away.
Speaking to the US Congress by phone, Chen said he feared for the safety of his family. His brother, nephew and cousins have been arrested.
When she saw her husband in hospital, Chen's wife Yuan Weijing talked about the threats and violence of recent days.
Speaking to the BBC, he said that his wife told him "our house has been installed with seven CCTV cameras inside the courtyard. There are people in and outside of our house and on the roof . . . They just eat and stay in our house, and they plan to build up electric wires around my house."
A few months from the US presidential elections, US public opinion remains divided. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have not spoken on the matter, eager to strengthen the partnership with China. But many human rights organisations are calling for Chen to be granted political refugee status.
For his part, Congressman Chris Smith told Chen that Secretary Clinton needed to "go to your hospital room and meet with you, and you and your family and your supporters need to be on a plane coming to the United States for, as you put it, that rest that you so richly deserve."
In China, the press has been largely quiet on the issue. Only the Global Times, a magazine associated with the People's Daily, warned the United States to "distance itself from activities that do not match its functions". Similarly, a few days ago, Chinese officials accused the United States of interfering in China's domestic affairs.
In the meantime, China's Foreign Ministry said, "If he [Chen] wishes to study overseas, as a Chinese citizen, he can, like any other Chinese citizens, process relevant procedures with relevant departments through normal channels".
In Linyi, only people threatened him, but at the hospital, someone from the Foreign Ministry directly threatened him, human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong said.
For Chen's lawyer Li Jinsong, "It'll be a relief if Chen can leave".
On twitter, some believe that if he were to stay, it would be like being in "a big, dark room with a window for the Americans to monitor him".