By the ABC News Beijing Bureau
Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng could be in the U.S. by next week as the Chinese dissident who escaped house arrest in April and his family are expected to receive their passports on Monday May 21 st.
According to Chinese regulations, travel documents take 15 days to be processed. Bob Fu, the Texas-based advocate for human rights in China, says the Chen family applied for their passports on May 6 th.
Fu said that if the passports are held up there will be cause for real concern. All paperwork on the U.S. side is in order, as confirmed by State Department Spokesman Victoria Nuland on Tuesday.
When Chen leaves China, he will also leave family and friends behind who continue to suffer abuse inflicted primarily by the local government in his hometown province of Shandong. A Shanghai-based lawyer representing his nephew, Chen Kegui, says that he has been refused permission to meet with his client.
Chen Kegui is accused of attempted homicide, charges Chen Guangcheng says are completely false. He says his nephew was defending himself against local authorities who broke into his home following his uncle's escape from house arrest. Several other Chinese lawyers attempting to represent Chen Kegui say they have either been threatened or are suddenly unable to renew their legal licenses.
There are no signs Beijing is spearheading what is happening in Shandong. But it also does not appear the government is making any effort to investigate or stop the reported abuse, despite the fact the U.S. claimed the Chinese government agreed to do just that in the initial deal it brokered for Chen's release.
Dissidents, who ask to remain anonymous out of concern for their safety, say it is all too common for Beijing to silently allow abuse by local authorities similar to those Chen's story has highlighted to continue, as the government sees it as an effective way of containing unrest.
When Chen does leave China, he is expected to travel to New York where he has been offered a visiting scholarship to study law at New York University.