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Clinton: US helping Chinese dissident 'have the future he wants'

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"From the beginning, all of our efforts with Mr. Chen have been guided by his choices and our values," Clinton said. "Over the course of the day, progress has been made to help [Chen] have the future he wants, and we will be staying in touch with him as this process moves forward."

Chinese officials also said Friday that Chen, a blind dissident who had sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, would be allowed to apply for permission to study abroad.

Liu Weimin, spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that if Chen wanted to study abroad, he could “apply through normal channels to the relevant departments in accordance with the law, just like any other Chinese citizen,” according to The New York Times.

Chen is a vocal critic of the Chinese government on human rights, and fled house arrest last week for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He left the embassy on Wednesday under a deal between the U.S. and China that would allow him to live with his family and receive regular contact with American diplomats.

That deal unraveled after Chen asked to leave the country, saying his family had been threatened by Chinese officials. 

Republicans have hammered the Obama administration's handling of the diplomatic crisis. Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Thursday said the “embassy failed to put in place the kind of verifiable measures that would have assured the safety of Mr. Chen and his family.” He called it a "day of shame" for the administration.

Obama officials say they never encouraged Chen to leave the embassy and stay in China.

— Julian Pecquet contributed.