Report: China activist leaves US embassy, Beijing wants apology

Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese human rights activist who fled house arrest last week to seek U.S. protection has left the American embassy in Beijing, reports said Wednesday.

Chen was taken to a hospital in the Chinese capital, accompanied by U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke, The Washington Post reported. Chen was reunited with his family there.

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State Department officials said Chen was receiving treatment for an injury to his foot sustained during his escape from his home, where he had been imprisoned by Chinese authorities for his activism.

Officials acknowledged that Chen had been in the U.S. diplomatic compound since Thursday.

"On humanitarian grounds, we assisted Mr. Chen," a State Department spokesman said in a background briefing, according to the Post.

Reports say the Chinese government is demanding an apology from the United States for sheltering Chen.

The incident has raised tensions ahead of a visit this week by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. The two nations are holding talks on military and trade issues. 

Chen’s presence in the U.S. embassy placed the Obama administration in a difficult position as they sought to balance American commitments to further human rights in China with a need to maintain relations with the country’s leadership.

While President Obama stopped short of acknowledging Chen's presence at the U.S. embassy in remarks on Monday, he used the incident to press China on human rights. 

"I'm not going to make a statement on the issue," Obama said. "What I would like to emphasize is that every time we meet with China, the issue of human rights comes up.”

The incident also became an election issue, with likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney using Chen’s situation to continue to hammer Obama on his China policy. 

Romney had called on the administration Sunday to "take every measure to ensure that Chen and his family members are protected from further persecution."

"Our country must play a strong role in urging reform in China and supporting those fighting for the freedoms we enjoy," Romney said in a statement.

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