The blind Chinese activist whose escape from a rural village set off a diplomatic tussle between Beijing and Washington is on his way to the United States. Chen Guangcheng, his wife, and their two children were on United Airlines Flight 88, which took off from the Beijing airport en route to Newark, N.J.
Earlier, Chen spoke to the AP by phone from the airport, saying that he had left the hospital where he'd been staying. "Thousands of thoughts are surging to my mind," he said, sounding hurried but calm. To his supporters and others in the activist community, Chen expressed gratitude and indicated that he hoped to return. "I am requesting a leave of absence, and I hope that they will understand."