Beijing: Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, who was at the centre of an extraordinary diplomatic crisis between China and US for over month, on Saturday left for New York with his family after the Chinese government granted them passports.

Chen, along with his wife and two children boarded a flight to Newark, near New York, after being taken from a Beijing hospital to the capital's airport here.

"Chen a native of Yinan County of east China's Shandong province has applied for study in the United States via normal channels in line with the law".

He was offered fellowship in New York University to study law.

Chen, who has been speaking to the international media over the phone despite heavy security at the hospital told journalists before his departure that his mind was flooded by thousands of thoughts and hoped that his supporters would show some understanding as needed a respite.

US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the administration was looking forward to welcoming Chen to the US, and expressed "appreciation for the manner in which we were able to resolve this matter".

Bob Fu, president of the US activist group, China Aid, and a key supporter of Chen, said that the dissident was planning to stay in New York for two to three years.

"Of course he wants to spend some time to rest after seven years of brutal treatments at the hands of the Chinese local authorities," Fu said.

The visually impaired human rights activist, a self taught lawyer, set off extraordinary diplomatic crisis between the two countries after US officials helped him sneak into their embassy, a week before the high-level bilateral strategic and economic dialogue attended among others by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton early this month.

Details of how he managed to enter the US Embassy, monitored closely by Chinese, were still a mystery.

On May 2, he was brought out by the US Ambassador to China, Garry Locke in his limousine and then admitted to a hospital for treatment to injuries suffered while scaling a wall.

While an angry China demanded an apology from US, Chen created further rupture by openly pleading for asylum for him and his family.

As the incident caused a huge loss of face for China, it relented to allow him leave the country while Washington came forward to provide him and his family visas.

Chen was the second Chinese to sneak into US mission in China.

In February, Wang Lijun, Police Chief of Chongqing city took refuge in US Consulate in Changdu fearing threat to his life from the local Communist Party head Bo Xilai.

Wang subsequently came out and surrendered to central police.

The incident set off a major political crisis in China as Bo was subsequently stripped of all his posts and being investigated for indiscipline, his wife Gu Kailai arrested in connection with the murder of a British citizen.

The two incidents sparked apprehension among officials here that it could become trend prompting more and more disgruntled Chinese will take their complaints to US embassy.

(Agencies)

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