Since the U.S.-Chinese agreement on Chen, a picture has emerged of a vulnerable man who might have inadvertently compromised a deal several U.S. officials say was the best they could do, given the desire Chen expressed to stay in China.
Several sources within both the dissident network of Chen's supporters and on the U.S. side said that Chen remained focused on remaining in his home country with his family where he believed he could continue to fight for his cause.
Chen became best known for his 2005 campaign against the forced abortion and sterilization of rural women in China as part of the country's One Child Policy. He served four years in prison for disturbing public order and was then placed under what he has called a brutal house arrest including constant surveillance, isolation and abuse.
In the final hours of negotiation last week, Chen had asked that his family be brought to Beijing as an act of good faith by the Chinese government.
"The Chinese government didn't want to go through the trouble unless they thought he might agree to the plan," Ambassador Locke said.
The Chinese put Chen's wife, Yuan Wiejing, and two small children on a high speed train to Beijing. When she arrived, the two were able to speak for the first time since his escape. As the clock ticked down, it was Yuan who urged him to leave.
"[His] wife was pleading for Chen to come to the hospital," Locke said. "She said, 'We need to keep the struggle going. We have to take it a step at a time. It might not be everything we want but it is a step.'"
Chen agreed, and photos released soon afterwards show a smiling team of U.S. officials surrounding an exuberant Chen. But the celebration would not last long.
Whether the United States can or is willing to seek further negotiations is unclear. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman has demanded that the United States apologize for the incident for the good of relations.
Clinton Thursday addressed a conference in Beijing where she emphasized the importance of a partnership between the U.S. and China on global issues, but did not mention Chen by name.
Chen remains at the hospital in Beijing with his family, begging to leave with Clinton, according to the Daily Beast. Online reports by his friend, Teng Biao, released by the State Department, say he has been in touch with U.S. officials.
Speaking to ABC News this morning, Chen said, "If I can leave China, I will."
Whether that is even a possibility at this point remains unclear.