Updated at: 06/07/2013 8:35 AM
(AP) BEIJING - Family members of a Chinese activist who fled house arrest and later moved to the U.S. have been granted passports so they can travel outside China, just ahead of a summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama.
Chen Guangfu, the oldest brother of blind activist Chen Guangcheng, said that the passports for him and their mother, Wang Jinxiang, were delivered Friday and that they were planning to seek visas and visit Chen Guangcheng in New York.
Chen Guangfu said local police had denied their earlier passport applications on the grounds that U.S. visas are difficult to obtain.
Chen Guangcheng sparked a diplomatic crisis when he escaped house arrest in his rural town in eastern China’s Shandong province in April 2012 and sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Chinese officials later let him move to the U.S. with his wife and children.
Since his escape, Chen has criticized China’s human rights records, speaking about it before a U.S. congressional committee. He also has complained that Chinese authorities have reneged on assurances made to U.S. diplomats that his relatives would be treated according to the law.
His nephew, Chen Kegui, was sentenced to 39 months in jail after he clashed with local officials who stormed into his parents’ house in the wake of the activist’s escape. Chen family supporters say the prosecution and sentence were retribution for the embarrassment the case has caused Chinese officials.
Last month, Chen Guangfu complained that he and his family were subject to constant harassment by local thugs who beat him, distributed flyers with insulting language and tossed dead animals into the family yard. On Friday, the elder brother said the harassment has ceased.
Obama and Xi are scheduled to hold talks in California on Friday and Saturday.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)